Lazy Day Gardening – Day 12 NaBloPoMo 2016

After yesterday’s foray into family history, today was a gardening day ❤

As many of you are aware, it’s been very wet in Tasmania the last half of this year and it’s taken a long time for soil temperatures to rise enough to ensure reasonable growth. Tonight, we’re expecting a big north easterly to come through, which is expected to bring flooding again to parts of the state. I think most farmers and gardeners are holding their breath, as it’s getting late to plant main crop vegetables. Here’s hoping it isn’t too devastating!

I’ve been holding off planting out tomatoes but once this wet passes, I’ll be putting out this year’s plants and hoping we get a long enough summer to produce a reasonable crop. But today I got stuck into preparing the beds in a method I call “lazy gardening”. Because of my spinal problems, I have to be careful about how much I do and how hard I work. It’s a constant trade off between maintaining (and slowly improving) core strength and not overdoing heavy tasks that involve a lot of bending. And today was perfect for me, still and warm but overcast.

I generally do yoga stretches before I start (which I’m sure the chickens find hilarious) and have become very conscious of not doing a heavy, repetitive task for too long, otherwise I stiffen and find it incredibly hard to walk properly for some time afterwards. Today I forked over a relatively new section of a bed that had become quite weed-ridden with all the wet weather. The soil was quite soft thankfully, and relatively easy going.

To break the job today, I planted out a few mixed zucchini in another bed, and some beans – an heirloom climbing Borlotti and a new variety (for me), a climbing Pea Bean that I grew from seed. This has a delightful, perfectly round red and white seed. I’ve no idea what the flavour is like but this slug thought the seedlings were pretty tasty!

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I also had a wander around the garden and discovered loads of raspberries and a few Jostaberries, a complex cross between gooseberries and a black currant. I just hope we have enough sunny weather in the next few weeks for them to ripen and sweeten!

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Lazy gardening involves very blinkered vision and really is a relative term. I try and ignore all the other jobs that need my attention and just focus on one small area, something that I find very difficult. It also involves  a large bottle of water, somewhere to sit, my smartphone and a blue tooth speaker that I put on an upturned pot. This ensures I have to stop regularly, sit down, have a drink of water and listen to something interesting while I work. Today I had Tom Baker reading Doctor Who audio books – The Brain of Morbius by Terrance Dicks, while I variously weeded, looked for snails, fed the chickens the weeds and snails, watered the greenhouse and took some photos of things in the garden.

After a busy day, tonight I grilled Lamb Leg Chops which marinated most of the day in my version of Za’atar (garlic, preserved lemon, sumac, chillies, basil oil, Lebanese oregano and cumin seed) and served with Cous Cous and fresh vegetables from the garden. It was delicious!

And to finish, (because there’s so many eggs at the moment) I made a simple baked vanilla custard – so simple but so wonderful. The recipe couldn’t be easier. 6 eggs and 3/4 cups of sugar well beaten in a large bowl. Then add 2 cups of milk and 1/2 teaspoon of good vanilla essence. Pour into a greased souffle dish and place in a baking tray with some hot water. Bake in a moderate oven for about 40 minutes or until set through. This basic recipe serves four and can have nuts or lightly stewed fruit or fresh berries added.

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A Day In The Life – Day 7 NaBloPoMo 2016

This post came from an idea one of my friends gave me this afternoon. So here’s a day in my life……..

Today was Monday, and a day off from my usual work at Oak Tasmania. But there were all the usual jobs and dinner to prepare early because I also had a 1500 word essay to upload to my tutor for my current creative writing unit, Writing For Children and Young Adults

First, feed the animals. There was squawking and jostling to get the best position, but the chickens all got their share of seed mix and there was an early egg from dear Hipster, the oldest girl in the flock. Then some quick weeding to gather greens for the rabbits and a big chicory leaf for each of them (because rabbits!) and the obligatory cute Bernard Black Bunny pic of the day……

I'm Cute - But I Will Not Share My Chicory!

I’m Cute – But I Will Not Share My Chicory!

Once everyone was fed, water checked, pats and cuddles given, I watered the greenhouse and picked veggies for tonight’s dinner, a slow cooked beef and veg curry. This involved picking celery, purple cabbage leaves, silverbeet and snow peas and (as always) more weeding around the plants and cutting back flower heads – all of which went straight to the ravenous chickens.

Finally, I managed to get back in the house and make some breakfast for me! This morning I felt like something savory on my toast. So, before I went to feed the animals I went searching through the freezer. I had the last of my current loaf of sourdough toasted with a very decadent and different kind of topping. I was quite thrilled to find a tub of basil pesto (sans pine nuts) from the autumn harvest tucked away. By the time I got back to the kitchen it was defrosted enough to spread thinly on my toast. It was intense, both garlic and basil flavours came shining through and utterly delicious!

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Time then to knock a loaf of sourdough together and put dinner in the slow cooker. I replaced some of the bread flour with rye this time, which makes a nutty, slightly denser loaf. Wee Beastie the sourdough plant is really powering at the moment, so this is what it looked like after a few hours of proving under a damp tea towel in the kitchen.

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I cannot begin to describe how lovely and yeasty these loaves smell at this stage – and without any added yeast! I’ll leave it to prove overnight and bake it first thing tomorrow morning so I’ll have fresh bread for breakfast ❤

Next on my list was getting dinner prepped and in the slow cooker. About 500g diced stewing steak and a couple of diced onions got seared in ghee and tossed into the pot with a jar of home-made tomato based chilli sauce from a couple of seasons ago and a tub of cooked chick peas. Lots of spices, herbs, red wine, plus celery, carrot, broad beans and mushrooms (thanks to the garden again!). All thrown in the slow cooker, switched on and forgotten about until later in the afternoon.

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Then it was down to the nitty gritty – wrangling all my notes into a cohesive discussion about what I consider to be “an area of childhood that hasn’t been satisfactorily written about”. It’s a potentially huge subject and I only had 1500 words to work with. Chained to my laptop for the next few hours, I referenced, edited and pulled it all together – with Brahms in my headphones and the first cricket test against South Africa on the television. It was a bit mad for a few hours, I remember getting up and making a cup of tea at one point but apparently didn’t drink it, and some kind soul put food in front of me at lunchtime. But I managed to get it all done, correctly formatted and uploaded to my tutor who lives in a different time zone.

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After a cuppa with a friend who called round, it was time for the afternoon feeding of the hungry hordes, more egg collecting – and bunny cuddles ❤

I also picked some snow peas that I’d missed that were way too far gone for the table but rather than waste them, I shelled them and set them to dry on my seed shelf. They’ll form the basis of the next crop and/or traded with other fellow gardeners.

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Finally, I prepared the veggies to finish off the curry, silverbeet, purple cabbage and snow peas while some nice person cooked rice.

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And now, dinner has been devoured (delicious!) and there’s plenty of leftovers to refill the freezer. I’m currently crashed on the couch with my laptop watching my favourite current affairs show, The Feed on SBS and once I publish this I might get back to reading my new book, Jennifer Livett’s Wild IslandOr maybe think some more about that song I’m starting to write. Or perhaps do a little work on my final assignment for this unit, a creative piece of writing and exegesis.

Or maybe go to bed early.

And this was a day off……

A Day of Quiet Bliss – Day 29 NaBloPoMo 2015

It was very overcast and quite humid in Hobart most of today. Although I was supposed to go to an event nearby, I decided to stay home and potter around the garden. The girls were very pleased because this meant lots of extra treats for them and they rewarded me with eggs as usual. Boudica Bunny is also eating enormous amounts at the moment and all the babies are out and starting to get the hang of this eating solid food caper.

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I potted up more basil, chillies and Green Shiso (Perilla fruitescans var. crispa), a wonderful Japanese annual herb, which I primarily use in stir fries and salads. I’ve grown it in the past but never had such a fabulous strike rate as I did with this year’s seed supply. It’s looking wonderful and already has that unmistakable flavour and aroma. I find it likes a rich potting mix and lots of warmth for quick growth, similar to basil.

And then there was the completion of half the “corner of shame”. This is a classic before and after situation.

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Before

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After

Admittedly, we’re only half way there but that’s a lot further than we were a few weeks ago!

After removing the worst of the perennial weeds, I put some dolomite limestone over the area and covered it with several layers of cardboard.  Then we laid some cotton mats, donated by family members, that were old and worn and heading for the rubbish tip. (I think half our garden is recycled!)

A thick layer of coarse sand went over that and it was topped with some well composted native bark mulch, which I’ve found considerably less acidic than pine bark mulch. We did the same thing behind the chicken house and I’ve planted two Australian Tea-Trees (Leptospermum sp.) there to provide some extra wind protection for the ladies who lay.

The weeds will grow back – but not as quickly or as vigorously as they have in the past. I want to plant a couple of English Lavender here in the next few days and I’m planning to put netting or shade cloth above the fence to give a little more height for growing climbers in tubs and privacy both for and from our neighbours. Next spring, this is the likely spot for my beehive, angled in towards the garden.

I also finished the garlic crop, which has been curing inside the last two weeks. It’s now cleaned up, the tails have been clipped and it’s in three plaits, hanging off the laundry/kitchen door. It’s quite a decent amount this season, considering I’ve used and given away at least half a dozen or so heads already – and there’s more in the ground that needs pulling!

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Tomorrow is back to music work and teaching, the beginning of my birthday week, first day of my next university semester and the last day of NaBloPoMo – and I’m picking up my birthday present to myself tomorrow too 😀

 

 

And Then There’s This – Day 9 NaBloPoMo 2015

Further to yesterday’s post about the advertisement that labelled people who grow their own food as freaks, thank you so much for all your private (and universally positive) responses on social media. It means a tremendous amount to know that people are actually reading what I’m writing – as anyone who’s got a blog will know! I think where and how we source our food is an increasingly important issue – and obviously you folks do too.

I went to Oak Tasmania to play music today and as always, got there early to have lunch with my friends. And this is what I took…….

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Freak Feast

In my lunchbox were two chopped hard boiled eggs, some torn English spinach and wild rocket, shredded baby kale, home grown alfalfa sprouts and a few fresh strawberries, all picked this morning. The only thing I didn’t grow was a half an avocado I cubed and tossed through it. A few drops of sesame oil and a sprinkle of rice wine vinegar made a lunch fit for any gardening freak 😉

And I have to share this with you all. I have the best neighbours ever! Yesterday Karen asked if I had a large square cake tin she could borrow for her daughter Georgia, who at 11 is getting very interested in baking. I found my old big tin at the back of the cupboard and apologised for it being so dusty – I don’t bake much now my son’s living independently.

Last night Karen knocked on the door to return the pan (cleaner than when I gave it to her!) and a plate with two huge slabs of fruit cake on it. Apparently, Georgia’s was given a recipe for fruit cake made with ginger ale and it’s a total winner, full of fruit, moist and not too sweet. I’ll have to see if she’s willing to share the recipe……. 😀

Georgia's Fruit Cake

Georgia’s Fruit Cake

Looking for Spring

 

L - R: Hipster, Mephisto, Emo and Henrietta

L – R: Hipster, Mephisto, Emo and Henrietta

Hi everyone,

As I write the sun is struggling to come out after another arctic (or should that be antarctic?) blast hits Tasmania and south eastern Australia. Don’t get me wrong, I really love winter and the crisp, clear winter days we usually get. They’re wonderful for working outside, pruning and preparing beds for spring, but this is wearing a little thin now even for me! There are signs that spring is just about to happen, blossom starting to appear on early flowering cherries and spring bulbs popping up.

And yesterday morning, I found one of my beautiful old White Leghorn hens had died during the night. I thought she was older than the rest when I got her about three years ago and she’d never been a great layer, but she was affectionately known as Emo and we all loved her ❤ The funny thing is, Emo had been looking increasingly shabby despite having moulted in autumn, the same time as my other White Leghorn, Hipster. I even said to her on Monday (doesn’t everyone talk to their chickens?) that it was probably time to say goodbye before she started to suffer. I was planning to do it this weekend, when the weather is supposed to improve. Perhaps she knew.

Nevertheless, I felt bad about her passing and checked her over before burying her in a sunny spot in the garden. There were no obvious signs of disease or any parasites, such as mites and I think she just stopped wanting to be. After digging a decently deep hole, I laid her carefully at the bottom and said goodbye. Emo will eventually become raspberries, which will be great if I manage to transplant any runners this winter! I feel I’m very behind in this winter’s work.

Admittedly, I did have a very cold and long weekend away playing shows (more about that in my next post – with pictures!) and study has been taking up a fair bit of my time, but I feel I’ve done very little in the garden this winter. I have taken out a diseased cherry tree and planted a new apricot and dealt with the annual rhubarb clean up, feeding and mulching but there is a huge list of jobs that I really should attend to. So, this weekend I’m finally going to dig some of the raspberry runners, plant out some snow peas and spread some much needed mulch around the winter vegetables and fruit trees. And of course, there will be weeds for the chickens and playpen time for the rabbits 🙂

Take care wherever you are,

Debra ❤

What do you do in your garden in winter? What are your top tips for getting the most out of the short days?

Winter – Southern Style

March Snow 2015

Wow, it’s June already! Who stole my year and can I have it back please? I don’t know about the rest of you but life’s been a blur the past six months.

Yesterday was the first day of winter here in the southern hemisphere and it was a reminder that the year is marching on. Firstly, there was snow on the mountain, our second reasonable fall in a couple of weeks. Yes, we had heavy snow in March this year, very unusual for this part of the world (see the pic above, snow to approx. 200m/220 yards!) The garden is looking a little shabby as it always does this time of year, with fallen leaves that need raking and using as mulch, fruit trees that need attention and weeds competing with winter vegetables. Nevertheless, I love winter gardening in Hobart on those crisp, sunny days that we generally see so many of through June and July.

The chickens are looking equally tatty, all five of the old girls are in various stages of molting, and because of the shorter day length, no eggs at present. On the up side, the rabbits are thriving. They much prefer the cooler weather and all three have very luxurious winter coats, plenty of food, bedding straw and shelter.

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Out of view in this photo is a heavy duty enclosure that I’ve fitted with a tarp, where each of the bunnies gets a chance to run around, feast on grass and get plenty of exercise. I have been known to go and have a break in there with them, which usually means rabbit cuddles. Life’s hard ❤

And June heralds a new study period at online university, this time my first unit for a Creative Writing major. It’s really interesting as a much-lauded songwriter and lyricist that I’m going back to basics but my mantra throughout life is that you can never know it all – there’s always new things to learn.

As I’ve mentioned here before, I’m studying online through Griffith University and even a few days in, I’m really enjoying the course material, meeting new people on the discussion board who have a similar passion for words and the prospect of learning new things, new ways of doing what I love.

Hopefully, this will mean more regular blog posts!

Take care everyone and see you soon

Debra ❤

Whining and Winning

I’ve been complaining – no, let’s give it the proper title – whining for weeks about the weather.
After gorgeous sunshine yesterday, and nearly a full day weeding, I woke up to leaden skies and my buck rabbit Barabas, thumping the ground to let me know a thunderstorm was on the way. I love a good thunderstorm, though the rabbits and chickens probably wouldn’t agree but the rain is back. And frankly, we’re all sick of it!
The only positive things are the water tanks are still full and the amount of green feed we’re getting for the chickens and large growth of treats for the rabbits – chicory, nasturtiums, thistles and blackberry leaves especially.
To give you some idea of what I’m facing, this is a picture of a garden bed – not a weed patch.
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This was last weeded and mulched six short weeks ago. Underneath all this is a lovely small-growing bottlebrush that brings native birds into the garden, garlic, potatoes, cauliflower and silverbeet. I made a start yesterday but after the storm passed this morning, I couldn’t quite face mud-filled boots, so I switched to weeding the raspberry bed.
This has been another of my ongoing experiments. Last year I tried planting bare-rooted canes along my north facing wall but some very inventive starlings and a ridiculously hot summer saw all casualties and no survivors.
This winter, I tried again with a few bare-rooted canes in a raised bed in front of the greenhouse – with ample bird-netting! And again, nothing! But I did get a brilliant crop of mushrooms, so no real complaints.
In desperation, I bought a pot of sprouting Chilcotin canes from the local hardware centre a few weeks ago and literally emptied the pot into the bed alongside the canes that didn’t take. Finally, raspberries are growing and forming beautifully in my garden. Imagine my surprise then, as I was about to pull out what I thought was a dead cane today and spotted new growth from the base of two seemingly dead canes!
After all that whining, finally a win!

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