Well I told you that I hadn't forgotten Episode 17. Here is the podcast that I recorded on Tuesday 26th April, testing out some new recording software which I decided to turn into a radio show episode.
Today was a fantastic day to be out and about in the garden in my neck of the woods. With a sunny day and 23C, it was perfect to plant some onions and carrots.
I prepared the garden bed by turning it over and raking it level. The crop beforehand was zucchini and cucumbers, so I usually follow those with a root crop, and this year I decided to plant out and entire bed with brown onions. We had a bumper crop of onions last year, and we finished the last one that was harvested in November just last week. So buoyed by last years success, it was time to get them in. I decided to purchase seedlings instead of growing my own. Kim helped out by taking the pictures for a bit of a 'how to'. I learnt this technique from Peter Cundall, gardening guru.
So this is how I planted them. Firstly, I dug a long furrow and piled the soil up on one side only.
Then I divided up all the individual plants and placed them about 15cm apart laying on the non piled up side.
Like thus, all the way to the end.
Then all that was left to do is to backfill with the pile using the back of my hand. Don't worry about the onions laying down, as they straighten up when they find their legs.
There you go, one row down and three more to go. I won't bore you with each row, but suffice to say that the procedure is exactly the same!
Then I got the urge to plant some carrots. Now onions are a great companion plant for carrots, as the onion smell deters carrot fly and aphids. I was gifted a unique packet of carrot seeds yesterday for presenting a raised gardening bed workshop at our local Bunnings Warehouse. They also gave me some other stuff, but that is for another post if I get the photos sent through.
Here is the seed packet.
This is quite a cheats method of planting carrots, but it kind of guarantees success. As you can see, there are carrot seeds placed between two layers of tissue paper. I have read on some gardening blogs that you can do this yourself with toilet paper.
Then it is as simple as using your hand to make a very shallow furrow and laying the tape into it.
The gently cover the tape to a depth of 5mm. I planted two rows in between the outer rows of onions. Now that all of these vegetables were sown and planted, I simply turned on the irrigation system and gave it a good soak. Once watered, I sprinkled some snail and slug pellets (iron chelate) around the bed, which is pet safe but lethal to the hordes of slugs I have around here after a wet winter. The carrots should be up in about 7-14 days, then about 3 weeks later I will have to thin them out. The onions will not need thinning as I have already spaced them out adequately for full growth.
Other than planting, Kim and I trimmed our live Christmas tree, which was shading two of the solar panels, and significantly reducing their output. Then we had the pleasure of chasing the chooks around to give them their fortnightly leg oiling to keep away scaly leg mite. This time we both wore old aprons to stop the hens from splashing oil on us when we dunked their legs in the olive oil!
All fun and games at the TGOG urban farm. Have you planted onions and carrots before and what sort of success rate did you have?
This weeks podcast is an interview with Julie Grundy, who lives in Perth, Western Australia and is the author of Go Greener Australia.
I am a fan of her blog and also the G Magazine Challenges that she participates in. During the interview we talk about her motivation to continue writing, the water security issue in Perth, the proposed Kimberly Gas terminal, and her garden! It was a fun interview.
And if you are wondering what happened to Episode 17, well it is going to be posted when I am in hospital. I recorded what I am calling a Green Easy Listening radio show using some new software, which Kim thinks may not be a hit, but I am willing to give any format a go to promote sustainable living. Watch for Episode 17 soon!
Meet Teddy the West Highland terrier who we adopted from our local pound, and a new edition to our family.
You can see in the photo below that he was putting on his 'please adopt me' look, or was it his 'I am scared, please take me with you' look. It didn't take much convincing, let me tell you. We couldn't believe our luck when Kim stumbled upon his adoption post on the local council website! It is not often you get such a wonderful little dog that has been abandoned and handed in.
Here is a better photo of him, taken this afternoon, when we signed the papers and handed over the money for his sterilisation (by law), microchip, vaccinations and doggy wash and clip. Ironically, his operation is the same day as mine!
I do believe that Ben has fallen in love with the little fellow! He has a great temperament, but we will only see his true character once he gets used to us.
We pick him up on Thursday next week, after all the processing has been completed. He will be earning his keep by keeping the birds away from my veggie patch and away from the chicken feed. Hopefully I should be able to teach him to ignore the chooks and not play or eat them. Time will tell.
Today's main post is over at the Simple, Green, Frugal Co-op, where I describe the flavour and texture of home made Emmental Cheese.
Emmentaler is a holey, nutty tasting cheese that needs a little TLC during its creation, but well worth the effort. The proof was in the taste test, and the taste was fantastic. Please pop on over and have a read.
Whilst I have been unable to do much around the place, Kim has been helping me in the garden. Over the last 3 weeks she has been clearing away the dead pumpkin vines and I have been throwing them into the compost bin when I got home from work. Thanks for the help darling! I will make a gardener out of you yet.
There are so many hybrids in the batch, mainly because I planted seeds I collected from an Australian butter that I grew last year, and they obviously cross pollinated with a Queensland blue, and a Japanese pumpkin. There are some amazing shapes and sizes. There is an Australian butter shaped like a Queensland Blue, a Queensland blue shaped like an Australian butter, an Australian butter the same colour as a Japanese and a solitary Butternut the size of my fist!
Hopefully the flesh tastes okay. We have already had a glowing report from our friends next door who swapped me a six pack of home brew for an Australian butter pumpkin. They cooked up some pumpkin soup and said it was fantastic!
I also planted a few seeds of Turks Turban, which were very small. More ornamental than anything else and bit of a curio.
All in all I harvested 13 pumpkins this year, which is about on par with what I managed to grow last year. Next year, I will plant some true to type Australian butter, as they seem to do the best in my climate, and besides I think that they taste far better than the humble butternut anyway.
Yesterday, I finally got off my bottom and got stuck into planting some food. I started off, as the title suggests, with garlic. This is my 3rd year of growing garlic, and it is so easy. This is how I grew garlic last season. So this season, I decided to plant even more, as we have been feeding it to the chickens as medicine to keep mites and intestinal worms away.
The pumpkin patch was cleared a couple of weeks ago, and they are very hungry feeders and take a lot of nutrients out of the soil. This is exactly the type of soil that garlic loves. It doesn't need any extra manure to get it going, just some water. If you do add manure or an organic fertiliser the garlic grows too much leaf and not enough bulb, which is what you are really after. All I did was loosen the soil up a bit with a rake.
Anyway, I planted two varieties this year. I picked up some Southern Glenn from Diggers Club, which is specially bred to be day length neutral so it can be grown as far north as Northern NSW and Queensland. It is a softneck variety and the reason I planted it was because it matures early in spring and stores for 6 months.
The other variety were bulbs that I saved from last years crop, which I believe are Australian White (below).
Overall, I planted the cloves from 7 bulbs, two Southern Glenn and five Australian White.
Garlic is so easy to plant. Just dig a hole double the length of the clove (about 5cm) and bung it in, pointy end up.
It might be a little hard to see, but this part of the bed now has the two bulbs of Southern Glenn planted.
Then I moved on to the big bulbs that I had saved from last years crop.
Moving along with each clove, planted double the length down with my hand.
Breaking off some more,
Then just smooth over the soil with my hand. Simple as pie.
Then I watered it all in with rainwater. The leaves should show in about 4-6 days. Five bulbs down and two to go.
Then I tackled the the next bed. The bed near the chicken run was overgrown with couch grass (I think that is what it is?).
Most people would spray it with Roundup (tm), but not this little black duck. I resorted to pulling out every single bit of grass and root that I could.
Down on my hands and knees to tackle the tough stuff.
The roots were so deep in places that I had to get out the trusty hand fork.
It took me a good hour to get it all out, but then within a few months it will start to grow back. I will just have to keep on top of it as the garlic grows. I gave this bed a rake and a water, then popped in the cloves from the next two bulbs. Job done, and it was time for a cup of tea and a rest.
Tomorrow I will be clearing three beds on the other side of the house and putting in brown onions and broad beans, leaving one bed free for cabbages and broccoli.
I had a chat to Doug Jones this afternoon, who is the author of Wind-blown, dust and dirt. Jonesy has had to stop blogging due to illness, which he talks a little about during the interview, but loves to read other green and sustainable living blogs.
We also talk about his area, his community, how he designed and built his passive solar house, and about his veggie patch. Jonesy also talks about what keeps him going each day.
Every day is Earth Day as far as I am concerned, but a lot of people just don't think that way.
Before my greening, I had never heard of Earth Day, probably because it originated out of the USA in 1970. I have now of course due to the Internet, but if it wasn't for internet media, you would never know that it existed where I live. Here in Australia, there are very little in the way of Earth Day celebrations.
So I am going to celebrate it in my own special way. I am going to put my hands into the soil today and just hold them there for a while and think about all the ways that I am connected to the Mother Earth/Gaia/Terra/Globe or whatever you want to call it. It should be a powerful experience.
Then I shall plant some seedlings in the very same soil and watch them grow, and give thanks to the wonderful bounty that this great place provides us, but only if we live in harmony with it.
I am overwhelmed with the task at hand! Well, not really, but it still has not sunk in.
9 weeks long service leave, no work, so what is a bloke to do? Well, over Easter, I will be slowly working in the garden planting garlic, brown onions and cabbages, and I may catch up on a few movies that I have been waiting to see. I do have a 'raised garden bed' workshop that I am presenting at 1000-1200 on the 27th April at Bunnings Warehouse Melton. That should be fun, as I like presenting.
Then next Friday, it is into hospital for the operation and probably about 2-3 weeks recovery after that. Which means no heavy lifting, in fact no lifting at all.
To prepare, our stockpile is ready for the lull in activity around here, so we will not be food shopping for a while. We should not need much at all, except for a boost from the chooks to increase their egg production a little more. The bantams are the only girls laying at the moment, so the 7 other larger hens better get their act together, because I am so grumpy I might just make a few chicken dinners. I will warn them all tomorrow!
Other than that, it will be cheese making, vegetable gardening, day trips around Victoria, looking for local volunteering opportunities, and just relaxing around the TGOG urban farm. Oh and maybe the odd podcast and blog post or two.
Rock on! This will be the longest holiday I have ever taken in 31 years of working. A bit of a culture shock, but I think I can handle it. I suppose the question should be, 'Can Kim handle it'?
About a month ago, Kim and I ventured into the giddy world of candle making. So much fun, as it takes me back to primary school, when we used sand and old cardboard milk carton to pour molten wax into, to make candles.
Kim bought a kit on-line which consisted of 2kg of soy wax, about 50 wicks and metal thingies and some colour discs. We had saved lots of salsa jars which were just perfect for holding our candles. Nothing quite like reusing stuff that most people would probably throw away or hopefully recycle.
We chose soy wax as it was more eco-friendly than paraffin, however we realise that it is not as eco-friendly as bees wax. Bees wax was just too expensive, so we opted for soy. Instructions came with the kit, however here is how Kim made them (click to enlarge any photo).
Firstly she crimped the wick onto the metal thing, and each metal thing had a sticker on the bottom to keep it from moving when the wax was poured in.
We then poked holes through some ice-cream sticks and threaded the wicks through them and placed them in the jars.
Kim then got out the wax,
Placed about a litre in volume pressed down into a pyrex jug,
Then zapped it in the microwave for between 1 - 2 minutes, or until it melted and went yellow. Note that once melted we got about 500ml of liquid wax.
Then she took the jug out of the microwave, and whilst hot we broke a colour disk,
and stirred it into the melted wax. We didn't need to put it back in the microwave as there was enough existing heat to do the job.
It looked very dark in colour, but the instructions said it would lighten when it cooled.
Gently, she poured it in, making sure that she did not disturb the wick.
Kim poured it up to the lip of the jar, so that the wax had a well to melt into when lit.
We filled up 8 salsa jars in this manner, and let them cool overnight. Do not touch them, or you will disturb the wax and the wick.
Once solid, I trimmed the wicks. Note the little dip around the wick. This is because the wick soaks up some of the wax, but it is not an issue as when you light them, it soon melts and fixes this up.
As always, Kim got very artistic and glued a butterfly on each jar. I think they look very pretty.
I suppose the question you are all asking is do they work? Well, categorically, yes they do. We lit them for a party and they burned down about an 2.5cm (an inch) in 6 hours. They burn with a nice even fame, with minimal flickering and no smoke or smell. Quite lovely really. At least soy is natural, unlike paraffin which is made from oil.