Renewal

Hi everyone,

Winter has arrived with a vengeance – hard frosts last week and now milder temperatures but heavy rain and flooding with a big east coast low running down from the sub tropics. And the beginning of winter is also the renewal date for my WordPress account. What better way to celebrate than write a blog post about renewal ❤

I’m still recovering from the horror virus that’s doing the rounds and having to take it quite a lot easier than I anticipated the past couple of weeks. But I’ve been busy finishing off one Griffith University unit (Television Studies) and starting another (New Media: Communications in the Electronic Age), though my brain really isn’t up to being terribly academic at the moment. While it’s seriously throwing out my schedule, being ill has reminded me that sometimes it’s more important to sit back and watch things grow for a wee while.

Whenever there’s been a respite from the cold and more recently the rain, I’ve made a point of going down to spend time with the bunnies and chickens and simply revel in the garden and its amazing renewal with the recent rain – and just watch things grow for a little while 😀

Some of my favourite plants are the small, often forgotten little herbs. Most people who cook grow them, but often we take them for granted but at the right time of year, in the right light they are incredibly beautiful to look at.

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This is the tiny and delicate Orange Peel Thyme (Thymus richardii ssp. nitidus) which comes originally from Sicily. It has a gorgeous thyme fragrance, mixed with orange zest and grows like a mat, making it ideal for containers or rockery edges. I really like it with chicken dishes but it also works well with apple jelly.

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Above is the delectable Lebanese Oregano, also known as Greek Oregano or Zaatar Leaf (Origanum syriacum), undoubtedly one of my favourite culinary herbs. The soft blush on the leaves is typical of this upright herb, that grows into an open shrub that can get quite straggly if it isn’t cut back each year after flowering. The taste is quite intense and different to either Marjoram or Oregano and it is a wonderful herb for barbecue meats, roasts and chopped finely over baked vegetables.

And after a few days without looking at the vegetables and quite a lot of rain – look what I found! This was the first head from the late summer/autumn plantings and it was delicious, lightly steamed 😀

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Of course, as I’m sure all you fellow gardeners will understand spending time even just walking around your patch makes you think of all the work that needs to be done. Gardening is a never ending job, always a work in progress!

All the rain has meant the weeds are coming back in force and it’s going to take some dedicated time over the coming weeks to stay on top of it. Spent raspberry canes need cutting and in some cases, dividing and transplanting into a new raspberry bed. The rhubarb is ready to be divided too and the plum and nectarine trees need some final pruning to tidy them up now they’ve finally dropped all their leaves.

Also, I’ve got new fruit trees arriving soon and there’s a lot of preparation to do for them. I’m quite excited though as most of the new trees are on dwarfing rootstock and all will be going into half plastic drums that I’m going to set up as wicking containers similar to the balcony boxes I did back in January. I’ll be doing a blog post about it and photographing the process. (The balcony boxes are doing well by the way, with onions, chicory and coriander still going strong and three about to be replanted with winter greens – rocket, spinach and vitamin green).

Watching the frost pattern last week also made me consider planting some out of season potatoes in pots in the greenhouse as an experiment. Another project for another blog post when I’m recovered 😀

Meanwhile, the baby bunnies are growing very fast and will be ready to be sold next weekend as pets or grown on for butchering in another month or so. While some people have issues with this, I like to take responsibility for at least some of the meat I consume. And I do the slaughtering and butchering myself so I know they are humanely dispatched. This will be the last litter for a while as I don’t like to put either of my doe rabbits through the stress of winter birthing and rearing. I find it’s better all round to wait until spring.

I’ll leave you with the first Marigold in full bloom – the only one that grew from an old packet of seed.

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Take care wherever you are and whenever you can, take time to watch things grow  ❤

New Life – Day 7 NaBloPoMo 2015

Let’s start with a disclaimer. Apart from writing, performing, teaching and gardening, I keep chickens for eggs and breed rabbits as an ethical meat supply for my family. If this isn’t your thing, don’t bother reading any further – I don’t want to cause anyone any distress.

I had a wonderful day today – I spent most of it in the garden and the rest of it with my adult son, who’s recently returned from overseas 😀

This morning when I fed all the hungry beasts (six chickens and three rabbits) I had a talk to my gorgeous British Giant doe, Boudica. She had a “date” with my buck Beelzebun about a month ago and she was singularly unimpressed with his romantic advances – to the point where she drew blood on the poor boy! I really wasn’t sure if she was pregnant (she is a big girl!) and concerned that I’d have to rethink my breeding strategy for this season. My neighbour Karen was feeding her two pet bunnies and came with me to see Boudica in the nursery hutch.

Boudica, Queen of Rabbits

Boudica, Queen of Rabbits

To our tremendous delight, we discovered seven little baby buns, wrapped in some of Boudica’s super soft belly fur in the nesting box. It was really lovely to share this with Karen, she is another person who is very dear to me and  loves bunnies. No matter how often it happens, I always get a thrill from seeing new life in the yard.

Occasionally I sell a litter, some to other breeders and some as pets. Full grown, they are as big as a large cat and very placid and gentle creatures. But primarily I breed to provide an ethical meat supply to my family. I have a buck and two does and all three are much loved pets and with an average of nine kits per litter, I’m careful not to over service the girls.

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The rest of the day I spent pricking out seedlings into home made grow tubes, giving Boudica raspberry leaves, collecting rhubarb seed and cutting back the kale flowers, a regular task this time of year which has become a bit of a weekly event.

My chickens adore kale, so every week I take a big bunch into their yard and chop it up for them. It made me realise how well the two new Isa Brown hens, B1 and B2 have integrated into the flock. They came from a local egg farmer about three months ago, who lets his chickens free range during the day and roost and lay in a barn at night. When the girls arrived, they were looking a little shabby and thin but they were extremely interested in food. There were a few weeks of pecking and chasing by the other hens, establishing the new pecking order, which really didn’t help. B1 in particular went through a full moult and was especially timid.

Today I was very conscious of how healthy they are now, fully feathered and with bright red crops – and how well they’ve assimilated into their new home. It’s taken time and quite a bit of patience, but the work has paid off and the hens are happy, very well fed and laying. B1 is still timid but a very sweet little hen, who likes to sit in my lap and peck my mobile phone when I try to take her picture ❤

B1 with Mephisto the Beautiful Barnevelder

B1 with Mephisto the Beautiful Barnevelder