On Good Friday, it was all hands on deck to prepare the garden beds for planting. Adam, Ben and I got stuck into a good morning of hard work before planting on Monday, whilst Kim gave Butch a haircut. I had to pull Adam away from a riveting game of World of Warcraft so he could help me out. He was complaining about not being able to fight wizards in Azeroth, and about winning lots of epics or something like that. The lad really needs to get a reality check some days!
Firstly we picked the last of the summer crop. Ben and I picked the last of the heirloom tomatoes, pulled the last few carrots, and harvested what was left of the silverbeet (Swiss chard). Then, Adam and I started to pull out all of the old, spent plants and prepared for composting. Adam had the wonderful task of loading up the wheelbarrow with the contents of one of the three compost bins. The compost smelt fantastic, just like earthy goodness. Once the wheelbarrow was full, we put that to the side, and began to refill the bin. In went the corn storks that I had allowed to dry for a week, then the tomato vines, and the few capsicums that I pulled. Then we added a little of the old compost as a middle layer to start off the compost process again. Then we added the roots of the silverbeet and the long watermelon vines, added a handful of Dynamic lifter to the top and some Dolomite lime. It should start to decompose in about two weeks and will be ready to use in about 3 months. I will keep adding kitchen scraps for a while, and stir it weekly to keep it aerated.
With the beds all cleared, we started to add organic matter to them. As we were preparing three beds, we added a third of a wheelbarrow of compost to each, and then added some well rotted horse manure (Melton is a harness racing area in Victoria) from my Aerobin into each bed. Then I added a couple of flower pots worth of dynamic lifter to each bed and a handful of dolomite lime to lower the acidity. Adam then churned it all up with the pitch fork to mix it all in well. This took at least half an hour to really do a good job. I had to get him to redo it once, and said that I will have to call up Grandpa John (my Dad) and tell him that he was not farming like he had shown me all those years ago, and that Grandpa would open a can of whoop-arse on him. We had a good laugh, and Adam mentioned something about my backward country boy upbringing under his breath!
Some of the horse manure was still in big clumps, so I broke up as much as I could with the rake. After this was complete, I used the rake to level it all up and watered each bed in so that the dynamic lifter would start breaking up and the lime soaked in. Hopefully it will rain over the Easter weekend to help with the process.
After all of the outside work was done, I got busy in the kitchen. I had to blanch the silverbeet in boiling water for 2 minutes so that I could pack it away in the freezer. Kim asked me not to include any of the white stalks, so I cut them off and gave some to the worms and put the rest in the Aerobin. We will use the silverbeet as a substitute for spinach, and put it in quiche’s that Kim will make when it gets colder, and they are the best quiches on the planet!
I then made some curried carrot soup with the carrots Ben and I pulled. Here is the recipe I made;
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 Tablespoons butter
1 medium brown onion, chopped
750 gm organically grown carrots, chopped (freshly picked)
4 cups chicken stock (low salt)
1 half Tablespoon curry powder
freshly cracked black pepper to taste
Melt butter and oil in a medium saucepan, add onions and carrots and sauté for 5 minutes. Add the chicken stock and curry powder and a couple of twists of the pepper mill. Stir, bring to the boil, then cover and simmer until the carrots are very tender (about 15 minutes). Blend soup with a hand blender or food process, being careful as it is very hot! Return processed soup to the saucepan and reheat. Serve hot, with crusty bread. Makes 4 large serves.
It was fantastic, and all the kids raved about it, even Ben who is adverse to trying new things. A very satisfying start to a meal. Home-grown vegetables are simply the best I have ever tasted.