Monday, December 20, 2010

The gardening empire expands

After languishing in the shed for over a year the hot house was pulled out of hibernation and thrusted into the sunlight.
There was a little more to it than that. Rellos rolled up to help and direct and i ran around from hither to thither fetching different tools.
Clearing and flattening the  site took a little while with picks and shovels. The ground being riddled with privet roots didn't help much and then there was also the need to separate gravel from wood chips from the soil. Some of us thought that was important anyway. Then there was getting the width a bit wrong and expanding the flattened area a little more. While this was happening the kids went for a bush walk in the gully and could not be found where they were last seen. This necessitated one or several of the workers to leave and walk around with frown on face but unable to hear much to to bubbling stream which sounded a bit like kids talking. Of course the kids turn up where they should in the end.
continue working with plenty of adjustments then some final drilling a screwing bits down and the structure is done. Potting benches are put in place and someone gets very excited and transfers all his temporary nursery plants into their nice warm new home. AAAAH.

New animals on the farm include Turkeys and Ducks.
The 3 Turkeys are now happily free ranging in the orchard after we put up the fence to protect the vege garden. They are having such fun.

The Ducks

 which are egg laying snail eating Khaki Campbell/ Indian Runner crosses, are waiting in their "A" frame palace until they are big enough to not fit through the wire that surrounds the orchard. They are a bit shy and don't really like to be picked up at all.

Yes - there is supposed to be a hole in the wire! The new drill got a work out on this one.

There is a lot to report on as far as wire and mesh goes. The new electrified mesh arrived toady and will be rolled out over the next week when we work out what sort of power source etc is required.

However the pinnacle of the netting empire is the newly enclosed vege garden.

Now there will be no Bower birds nibbling leaves and fruit and seeds. Now life will be a little easier and plants that go in the ground will most likely survive and possibly even thrive.

Wildlife moments
A very lost grey Kangaroo hopped up to the house one morning - then went away again
The Potato Orchids started to flower

These potato orchids have no leaves and live off of Under ground funghi - which live in the roots of trees

A long list of Wombat moments. His new name is "Wally Wombat Peter Bush animal"
Rufus Fantails in the gullies
Red-browed finches on the driveway. I do love a finch.
Stumbled upon the mound where the Lyre bird does his singing
Got several leach bites ( they only itch and swell for 3 days)
"Giant" tadpoles in the dam

Lizard love in the orchard

blue-tounged lizards being amorous
 Finally because of our amazing rain here we are picking mushrooms. We mostly are finding them on forest edges rather than in the paddocks which is the norm for Autumn.
Mushrooms with a Lyre bird feather from the forest

Sunday, December 5, 2010

preparing beds, fencing and planting

I'm quite unaccustomed to the density of weeds that i have had to contend with when preparing a vegetable bed. At our old place preparing a vegetable bed was a breeze as long as there was no couch grass around. I have used several methods to try to fast track the soil preparation. One method we have use is to invert the top soil to the bottom in weedy chunks and line the bottom of the beds with chicken manure. I once read about this method as a way to convert a lawn to a vegetable garden.

inverted bed step 1 - dig out chunks and move aside

inverted be step 2 &3 - add chicken manure then place chunks grass side down on the manure.
 hopefully the manure will speed up the rotting of the weeds. We have also gone through beds the old fashioned way and removed all weeds. this is a good one for beds that you want to plant in in a hurry. we have also inverted the weedy chunks, piled more soil on top in the course of terracing beds and them piled on worm filled horse manure and covered that in cardboard.

Another project completed a while ago now was the reinforcement and repair of the chicken run.

The new and improved chook fence
 As there were many holes in the fence we raised the old wire and used it to make a floppy top on the fence that makes it hard for foxes to climb. We then used new tougher wire for the bottom of the fence and a small skirt. We also realigned the fence line so that it wasn't so close to tree trunks.

So what has gone in the ground?
A row of climbing beans (Dutch pole, Zebra) and peas (Sno and telephone)

 A row of dwarf beans consisting of Helens white seeded bush bean, Borlotti and Cherokee wax. These were hammered a bit by the baby grasshoppers. I have also been liquid fertilising in an area of the beds where wood chips had been dug into the soil by previous gardeners, resulting in a nitrogen deficiency.

Salad greens have gone in including Endive, Cos lettuce, rocket, Tat tsoi and Paak Tsoi and some Iranian Dill.

Lots of other things have done into pots in the temporary nursery.

A small sample of the pot plantings include:
Westralia climbing bean
Calico Lima bean
Fennel Zefa Fino
German scarlet runner bean
Tree lucerne
Raddicio red verona

Another bed has been sown with Parsnip, Beetroot, Coriander and Mizuma.

Then there's the potato bed. This has been planted with Dargo goldfields, Tasmanian pink eye, Kipfler, and King Edward.(All thanks to Graeme George at our first Yarra Valley Seedsavers meeting)

Rhubarb and Strawberries have gone in another bed.
Mozambique maize has also gone into a bed of nice friable soil on the orchard side of the garden but they are yet to peep their heads above the ground.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Instant Tomatos

One of the first plants to go in the new garden were the Tomatoes grown for me by my Father in Law.
So Day 1 - plant Tomatoes
Day 2 net Tomatoes.

One of our most stunning birds around here is the Satin Bowerbirds. They are also quite fond of anything green in the garden including the leaves of the Tomato plants, and as of yesterday bean leaves.

We are in the process of organising netting for the vegie garden which will be followed in time by netting of the orchard - which is not really producing anything at the moment.

Baby grasshoppers are also very abundant and are having a munch on the new bean seedlings but seem not interested in the peas. More netting being thrown around as a consequence.

Lots more stuff planted in the ground and in pots - updates to follow

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Buttercups' new digs

The new home among the gum trees

and her new friends - the Hamburg chickens

Buttercup appears to be taking it all in her stride. She is feeling so good she is even laying an egg or 2.
The new Hamburg chickens are also very pretty with good temperaments and don't appear to be interested in victimising buttercup, which is a change from our old chooks.

There are a few other friends to get familiar with..

This one was making himself at home scratching on the outdoor furniture. He spends a lot of time scratching which is quite comical until you realise that it is due to mange - then it's quite sad.

Other inhabitants are also making themselves at home. The new swing is a bit bigger than the old one. They are also enjoying the sand pit in the horse stable and the cattle race.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

How to de-brood a chook....

Find a pet carrier from a defunct airline.

Farewell all her friends

Take her on a road trip.
Introduce her to some new friends a long the way

Expose her to grand new destinations
Show her a sense of adventure
wine and dine her with luxury accommodation along the way
She'll not only stop being broody, but you will develop a special relationship that will last until she finds some other hens to hang around with.

Stay tuned for Buttercups' arrival at her new digs..............

Friday, June 4, 2010

A visit to Davids' house - April

I arrived at Davids' house and parked under a large oak tree in the back streets of Olinda on Mt Dandenong.  I was to meet David and Margaret Angus - two people whom i had never set eyes on before. I had been corresponding with Margaret from Southern Cross seed savers and she kindly agreed to organise a few gardens for a stick beak. I was very interested in Davids' garden as it was on the same soil and a very similar altitude to our place, so what i saw at his place would be almost directly applicable to my place.

I was not disappointed. The first plant of note on our wander around the garden was a Chilean guava which were offered to help ourselves to. The fruit were just ripe and delicious - quite guava like but no noticeable seeds.

Another plant which i head read about was the Yacon which is sort of a bit like a Dahlia with an edible starchy root. I did not however expect it to grow as tall as me. I think David had eaten them but they were by no means about to replace potatoes on his menu.

That was not the last of the supersized vegetables in his garden. I wanted to keep lingering and marvelling at things such as the hip high Rhubarb plants with  with 50cm wide leaves and gigantic stems to match. However David was onto the next thing down the garden path.

What a feast! One thing after another i saw and wanted to have one growing myself. The Oxalis tuberosus or Oca is a small tuber that is popular in New Zealand but relatively unheard of in this country. I have never tried them but i'm wondering if they might be a good stand by crop to have in the ground when other things fail.

David had a number of very admirable bean trellises holding up several varieties of heirloom beans which he was growing out for the local seedsavers group and making available to its members.  Most of his beans he need to pick and bring them inside to dry as the wetaher doesn't allow them to dry very well on the vine.

Ukranian noodle bean below.

I was just generally full or admiration for Davids methodical work on his garden beds, productive plantings and local knowledge. The hot house too was full of plants in different stages of growth. A special variety of Peas had gone in (Delta louise - specially bred by David Murray) as well as tomatoes still hanging on from the summer, bountiful capsicums and also chilies and Basil. David recommeded a book called "The four season harvest" by Eloit Coleman i think and i will get onto it when the time comes.

Other trees of note were two types of Persimmon, Tamarillo a variety of semi wild quince which aparrrently was growing very fast - and also had some big thorns. David had a thriving lime tree and a japanese mardarin which was also doing beautifully. He did have a Fejoia which had never done well for him.

After our walk we retired to the kitchen to talk seeds and have a cuppa and also showed the children where the rasberry patch was to be found, which kept them busy for a little while.

To top this all off David also supplies vegetables, fruit and eggs to the "hills organic box scheme" HOBS. Everyone was all pretty happy with this arrangement besides his daughter  who had to battle for her once safe supply of eggs and organic produce. Though there must have been a few eggs left for the lovely baked things we were offered.

Now that i have seen Davids' garden i vow to return to get cuttings and bulbs when the time comes to plant our place out. As i told Margaret there's nothing more than i love to do on my holidays than look at gardens and this one is high on the list of the most interesting food gardens i have seen.

Monday, May 24, 2010

A visit to tenderbreak

Having been following the tenderbreak blog for a while i was keen to take advantage of the opportunity to visit the wonderful garden and house in April.  I managed to get onto a tour with a permaculture group from Melbourne, so after grabbing a map a high tailing it over from Healesville we arrived at the garden right on time - although after the lovel lunch had finished.
Sadly i must have been a bit too rushed to grab my camera so no photos for the blog - but you can easily visit the tenderbreak farm blog.
The highlight for me was tasting lovely fruits like cherry guava, figs and fejoias?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Visit to Allowyn gardens

Now I'm not averse to looking at pretty gardens with manicured this and that, so with this in mind we stopped into Allowyn gardens on the Yarra Glen road while Dad and other relatives were off gawking at Marysville.

However i found these gardens were a bit of a treat as they had incorporated fruit trees into large portions of the garden and had lots of vegetables to display as well.  Not a bad way of encouraging people to squeeze more food plants into their gardens. We were welcomed to pick an apple or two so while i strolled around munching i took a few photos.

Now the other strictly ornamental bits are very nice too and the creators of the garden are lovely people with passion and one has to appreciate the work that has gone into creating this garden. Oh - yeh - has coffee too if you are feeling the need.

Plan of attack

So instead of getting straight into the orchard we thought we'd wear our bodies out a bit first by slogging away at the gravel on the roads to avoid them deteriorating more. Nothing like hacking away at solidified road metal and scraping away at stony gutters - so good for the abs.

After a couple of hours on the road we were due for a lighter job so we thought we might go into the orchard and slog away at some of the blackberry growth and try to pull it out by the roots. This is so not the permaculture way of doing things. A goat or a couple of pigs and a couple of months would be how they would deal with our blackberry issue. however - i am keen to fast forward the tape on food production and goats and livestock are out for now as long as we aren't living here full time. So we made lovely little piles of blackberry focusing around the trees first then working our way out.

 Eventually we said stuff it and slashed the rest with a brush cutter and save that job for a little later. maybe the goat will be around later. We also did the same with the bracken after getting jack of pulling it out by hand.

The plant which has made a star appearance in the newly planted orchard was sorrel. i didn't think we had much of it but now i think that it is going to be quite a challenge to control (especially in the vege garden) as it is quite happy poking its way up through significant layers of mulch, and has lots of roots in the soil which it can resprout from when it is cut off. And i'm not sure any animals like eating it either - except perhaps people.

last year in spring when i was weeding i direct seeded a range of plants where there were holes left. i also planted seeds in the unused fruit tree holes.  Hey presto - we have pumpkins which grew on natural rainfall without any additional watering. We also had a couple of Zinnias and sunflowers and red clover making an appearance.

Once enough of the weeds were cleared away it was time to put the berry vines on a trellis. Not knowing any better we used two strands of wire with a couple of support poles. i think i have seen something like that while "u-picking" raspberries.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Spring report card

The orchard growth has surpassed my expectations in most cases. This was probably partly due to a wet and warm summer which meant there was no water shortage on the unirrigated orchard. Star performers were just about everything except perhaps the almond and fig although they were probably still quite good .

The Loganberries and Boisenberries were also quite amazing and put out 2.5 meter long canes in all directions. These were planted as mere twigs last winter so i quiver to think how much growth and fruit they will deliver after this winter.

The Rasberries had not grown as rampantly but had put up plently of suckers uner the ground, while my Autumn fruiting Rasberry gave us our first fruit , which were very welcome little jewels.

The mild Autumn that prevailed in southern vic also led to us getting our first figs from our tree that have never before ripened as far as we know. This hasn't stopped the Currawongs eating them green though. This year the birds were not all over them (although the king parrots did stop by) despite the ripe fruit so we easily had our fill although many more will not ripen with the weather turning cold now.

King parrot in fig tree

A few trees were bashed around by pear slug - most notably the pears while the cherries seemed to outgrow their attentions.


The most recent pest outbreak seems to be copious numbers of small brown striped grasshoppers which are usually found on the pasture. They gave a few trees some trouble including the almong and the currants also seemed to be popular. These will not be so much of an issue when we have hens on patrol down the track.