After many months maintenance in the strawberry patch the rewards are finally starting to fruit. We picked quite a few kilo's yesterday and there are many more to come. The peaches are all looking sweet and plump. We have set up a fruit fly trap to protect our lovely harvest- a plastic bottle with a little bit of vegemite and water in the bottom and apperently it helps if you paint the doorway yellow. We have picked many kilo's of tomatoes and potatoes. Delicious roma and big plump cherry tom's. Fantastic in salads and also great for making chutney. My first batch of chutney only lasted two days before it was devoured by the hungry hoards.
Our first row of carrots is still producing nicely and we have planted a second row of both beetroot and red core chantenay carrots. The first of the corn silk has shown and we are following up with successive plantings. Our last helpers Alexi & Carol kept them selves very busy in the garden and planted a whole swathe of sunflower seeds and we are really looking forward to them growing.
Tuesday, August 2, 2011
I really like compost and love the idea of scraping together piles of old festy stuff, grass clippings, weeds, garden waste and the like and mounding it up so it rots down into stuff that you can grow food out of. When I drive around Samford Valley there are often miles and miles of grass slashings that have been left in big rows by the side of the road. They don’t stay there for ever, and I’m pretty sure no one comes along and picks them up, so what happens to them? They all rot, disappearing back down slowly into the ground so that more grass can grow up. I like the fact that it does this without any one doing anything to help it along. It seems simple and easy.
I like the fact that whenever you read about compost in garden books or hear people talking about it on the TV they always refer to completed compost as having a “rich, dark, crumbly texture”. It makes me think of chocolates, Flakes in particular. Delicious.
Most stuff that I make compost out of has to be mixed with manure so that it rots down properly. All of the fibrous sorts of things need some kind of sludgy, muddy sort of stuff to get it composting properly. Because of my love of composting I have also developed a love of manure. Cow manure in particular. Sometimes, I will lie awake at night thinking of all of the poo out there that I can collect. I will often load up the car with old chook food bags and a shovel and driven out to a friendly paddock to get bags and bags of cow poo. Ute loads. Trailers full. Sometimes my friends or Wwoofers come to help me. It is a nice way spend the afternoon. Warm sunshine, cool breeze. If the poo is still a little bit moist and sloppy (the best kind) some liquid leaks through the weave in the bag and makes your lovely clean T-shirt a little bit festy. This makes picking up a few things from the shops on the way home an entertaining experience.
When making a compost heap I think that the best way to apply the manure to the heap is as a “soup”. I make it by putting a bag of poo in a big drum and mixing it with water. I use a plastic 44 gallon drum, cut in half. Good fresh poo should achieve the consistency of a smooth, runny paste with the addition of water. If the poo is old and has been sitting in the paddock for too long drying out you really have to let it soak for a long time and then give it a good mixing with your garden fork. This kind of poo usually turns to croutons in a broth rather than a smooth soup. This is still ok to put on, but fresh is better. Once you have your pasty soup all you need to do is make layers of rotten grassy stuff and then cover it with the soup. Because the soup is so wet it slops down through the grass and makes it all wet and stinky. This is very good. Grass sodden with poo soup is great because all of the lovely little bugs and bacteria that make their little houses in the poo are the things that break the grass down into “a rich, dark, crumbly texture’. It usually takes about one drum of poo soup to cover one layer of grass although as the heap gets higher it becomes more narrow at the top so your poo layers can be thicker. My friend Yann says it is like making a giant poo flavoured lasagne. Once you have about ten or fifteen or however many layers of crusty old grass and poo sauce you cover the heap in a thick blanket of dry grass, tucking it in around the edges. It seals it from the weather and makes it whole. Yann thinks of the blanket of grass as the cheese on the top of his lasagne. A finished heap reminds me of a docile bovine, resting and slowly chewing its cud.
Many gardeners have their own different ways of making their perfect heap. They will add extra things to improve them: comfrey; other poos like horse, sheep or chicken; soil; leaves; kitchen scraps – all of which are great if you have them handy. I add some specially made Biodynamic preparations after my heap is complete. I mentioned earlier that the heap is a whole, a complete organism in itself, like a cow. The biodynamic idea is that these concoctions made from specially prepared plants and herbs act as the “organs” of the heap, helping it to function as its own organism.
A few days after you have made the heap it will start to get very hot. On some mornings, especially in the winter, you will see steam rising up off the pile as all of the little bacteria get busy and start eating away at the grass. It is like getting a whole lot of little kids and giving them something sweet to eat and then closing them into a small room and watching them run around like crazy. That is what is happening in a compost heap. All of the greeblies are getting busy and it is getting cramped in there under that blanket and they are doing cartwheels and star jumps and the whole heap gets really hot. It is a process of fermentation, like brewing beer. After a few weeks the heap will slowly cool down and then another process of decomposition takes place. Now that it is cool enough whole armies of worms will come up out of the soil to eat the tasty heap. At this point, after about a month or so, you will notice the heap sinking down on itself. After about six months everything that you put into the heap no longer looks like what you put in and you can see that if you shovelled it out and crumbled it through the soil, plants would just fall over themselves to grow in it. It is like a condensing of all the fibrous bulk of the grass clippings and all of the potent pooey power of the cow manure, coupled with the effort and sweat and care that you have put into it.
I have found that some people don’t like the idea of mixing dead organic matter and poo together. They say it's icky. I really find it immensely satisfying. It is good sport watching a freshly built heap go from being big and shiny and new to just another mound of stuff lying around the yard. Those who have made a heap before however know that rather than losing its former grandeur the heap is actually becoming more powerful and potent. I really like that this stuff, collected, cared for and organised in a discreet spot under the Loquat tree now has the power to feed people. It is all so simple, and wholesome. It is honest. It is what I want to do.
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
The Tatsoi seed we planted on the 4th of June and then thinned out to a bigger bed is thriving. This luscious asian vege is a quick cropper and looks so impressive in the garden. We have been using the baby leaves from the initial nursery bed for salads and stir fries. After harvesting our first crop of Pak Choy two weeks ago and sending it of to Food Connect we are looking forward to sending this crop of Tatsoi to be enjoyed.
Sunday, June 12, 2011
After a year or so of sporadic work and wonderful wwoofer's helping we are finally nearing completion of the wwoof hut. This humble little abode will be home to our guests and is a classic Australian rustic and forest experience. It is quite tiny being big enough for a couple of beds and room to move but the little deck boasts a peaceful and green view of the forest..almost like being in a treehouse. The morning sun provides a wonderful spot to relax on the deck and shines in to the many windows. We have several guests stay in the hut already and we are looking forward to the hut growing in character as new guests pass through her.
All the building materials are recycled and either salvaged from other peoples rubbish or bought cheaply from the demolition yard. I have always dreamt about building a whole house in this fashion perhaps demolishing other derelict houses and rebuilding it with the salvageable timber. It does take a lot of work however just simply denailing timber is a time consuming job. For a building the size of the wwoof hut is has been perfect though and I hope that we get to share this special little place with lots of people.
Saturday, June 11, 2011
Picking fresh greens from the garden is so satisfying and makes for good food. Silverbeet and spring onions would be two of my most favourite greens to grow. So easy, vigorous and delicious. Fordhook giant is such an impressive variety of silverbeet and planted with rainbow chard makes for a colourful and tantalising display of greens. Spring onions give your gardens beds an interesting dynamic planted throughout. I plant them in every spare little patch I get as they don't take up much space and you can replant the bulb after you have chopped off the tasty greens and it will re shoot. Yesterday we planted out a big bed of Tatsoi, my favourite Asian green... beautiful round dark green delicious leaves, and are looking forward to watching them boom after a night of gentle rain to water them in. The next candidate to plant out will be the tiny broccoli seedlings we have hundreds of. We have been using the nursery bed method where we plant out the seed direct into a bed but always have a thick growth of seedlings so then transplant to other beds in the garden. It can be hard work transplanting such little seedlings but the first lot of pak choy that we transplanted in this method has been very successful. Looking forward to an abundance of more delicious greens.
Friday, June 3, 2011
Saturday, May 28, 2011
Our little navel orange tree is dripping with fruit at the moment and they are deliciously juicy. We have been having fresh squeezed juice every morning..with a touch of lemon and lemonade fresh from the tree as well. Having just one Navel tree and one valencia I am thinking it would be good to plant some more. With the new Lofty Meadows Organic Vegie plot that has gone in it would be great to compliment the vegie supply with a healthy crop of fresh citrus as well.
I will need to do a bit of research of pruning and general tree care. I was just thinking as I was juicing the oranges how happy I was that Lofty Meadows was getting to the point of good food production but how important it is to not take it for granted. With our lifestyle choice of growing organically and even biodynamically I am really aware of how easy it is to neglect the trees sometimes. So I am looking forward to rewarding this beautiful vigourous young orange tree with a healthy treatment of the Biodynamic Tree paste. We'll wait to do that til after we prune but for now I'm off to enjoy a fresh juice.
Sunday, May 1, 2011
After four years we have finally decided to put the front paddock to good use and have built a new fully enclosed garden. Measuring 11 metres by 17 metres it looks very impressive and is going to keep us very busy. It has been a very satisfying project from concept to design to construction in 48 hours!...my back and my hands are sore from digging and mixing concrete for the posts but I am still so excited about this new space to grow. We have already dug the first bed and will plant our Lofty Meadows purple king Beans and Snowpeas this afternoon.
We put the net on last thing yesterday and just have to finish edging it down and patching the last corner where the net didn't quite reach! Off to collect materials for some trellis to grow the beans and peas.