Cold Frame Construction

3 Comments

What is a cold frame?  The best description is a mini glasshouse which is low to the ground.  You can check out one from Gardening Australia here.  They are predominately used in much colder climates than ours, however, the primary reason that we built one is that I want to grow basil throughout the winter months.  It will also be perfect for starting spring seedlings a bit earlier than usual.

For the past few weeks we have been taking small steps towards building a cold frame.

Two hardwood sleepers form the back wall.

2020-06-04 01

Deciding on a location, sourcing materials (the majority secondhand) and developing a design have all taken time.  GMan has cut and painted timber as well as replacing putty in the window frames.

Everything has moved up a notch in the last couple of days as we began building in earnest.

The construction is almost complete with only the polycarbonate sheeting to be added to the front and ends of the enclosure.  This last step is on hold until we retrieve our jigsaw (lent out recently) to cut the sheeting.  Hopefully this will happen early next week.

2020-06-04 02

We won’t win any prizes for our carpentry skills but the structure is solid and functional.

2020-06-04 03

A pair of casement windows from the timber salvage yard form the top of the cold frame.  They are hinged at the back and we attached some old cupboard handles to the front edge to facilitate easy access.

2020-06-04 04

Apart from the polycarbonate sheeting on the sides, we also need to finish levelling the ground and filling the holes around the uprights.

In the meantime I have put the tray of basil seedlings in this space overnight as even without the sides completed it still offers a warmer and more protected space than their previous location.

The components which we purchased new for this project were the sleepers, hinges, window putty and long screws for the frame.  The windows, handles and timber all came from the salvage yard while the screw used with the hinges and handles came from our collection of odds and ends at home.

I would love to hear of anyone else’s experience  with a similar kind of set-up.

Road Trip

2 Comments

For 2 months we have mostly stayed at home apart from a weekly trip to buy fresh produce and dairy and a couple of forays to Bunnings for necessities for the renovation projects.  Over the last week or two we have also made a couple of visits to family.

COVID19 restrictions have been eased slightly but I have no real desire to go browsing in shops or mix with people whom I do not know.

However, we needed to get out and a road trip seemed like the perfect answer.  

Packed up and ready to go.

2020-05-23 01

We set out with a vague idea of going to Toowoomba. That did indeed become our destination, albeit via a rather circuitous route. Our first stop was for petrol so we then took the back road via the Glasshouse Mountains lookout to Woodford.  From there, we headed through Kilcoy, Yarraman and Oakey before arriving in Toowoomba.  It was definitely the road less travelled.

2020-05-23 02

It was time for a late lunch by the time we reached Toowoomba and we found a Turkish restaurant that were also offering takeaway meals.

2020-05-23 03

Despite the cold weather (apparent temperature about 2C) we headed for Queens Park to find a picnic table where we could eat. 

2020-05-23 04

We were rugged up with jackets and I had my knitted cap which kept my ear and head warm.  There were other people in the park but social distancing was certainly not an issue.

A couple of views of Queens Park and some of the autumn foliage.

2020-05-23 05

2020-05-23 06

Our return route was via the highway to Brisbane where we made a brief stop to visit my mother and then back onto the highway for home.

In no time we had a fire going to warm the room.

2020-05-23 07

Our day out was an adventure which broke the monotony of the days at home.

Bug-Free Brassicas

4 Comments

I have occasionally managed to grow cabbages, broccoli and to a lesser extent, cauliflower but it is a constant battle to keep them bug-free.  I choose not to use pesticides, therefore, exclusion remains the best option.

2020-05-21 01

After much research, I finally bit the bullet a couple of days ago and ordered a quantity of Vege Net from eBay.  I was particularly pleased to discover that the seller was located in my home state.

The order was dispatched promptly and I received it within 2 days of placing my order.

Then it was time to wrestle with 120 sq metres of knitted polyethylene fabric.

My plan was to make a reasonably fitted cover to slip over the hoops we had positioned over the garden bed.

I cut a large rectangle which would cover the majority of the bed and 2 semicircular pieces for the ends.  Pins are useless on this type of fabric so I used some old pegs to hold the pieces in place while I stitched the seams using a regular sewing machine.

2020-05-21 04

Once this was done, it was simple matter of slipping the cover over the hoops.  Because this is a raised garden bed the extra fabric simply hangs down to completely enclose the desired area.

2020-05-21 05

View of the new seedlings safely undercover.

2020-05-21 06

I anchored one end with some rocks so that it will not blow off.

2020-05-21 07

I am considering adding some lead weights to the other edges or making a long elasticised tie to go right around the raised bed.

There is another cover to be made for a second garden bed which is not raised so I will just anchor that one with rocks all the way around.

The total amount of fabric I used to cover the 2 beds was about 24 sq metres or 20% of the total.  The remainder is back in the bag for use to cover fruit trees or other garden beds in the future.

2020-05-21 08

I spent $125 on the fabric (including postage) and believe that it has been money well-spent as it is an investment in our future food production.

I would definitely recommend this product if you are considering exclusion netting for any plants.  It is available in smaller quantities and you could also simply drape it over the area rather than making fitted covers.

Pandemic and Packaging

6 Comments

As Plastic-Free July looms on the horizon, perhaps it is time consider one of the little-discussed ‘victims’ of the current COVID-19 pandemic.

For well over 20 years I have worked on reducing the packaging that comes into our home.  I take my own containers to buy dry goods (flour, nuts etc) from bulk bins.  I have been able to take my own bottles to the local Co-op to get them refilled with apple cider vinegar, tamari and olive oil.  The local IGA supermarket and butcher accepted my own containers for meat, fish and deli items including sun-dried tomatoes, olives and feta cheese.

However, everything changed as COVID-19 arrived.  I can still buy dry goods in my own jars as long as they are scrupulously clean and have no remnants of previous contents.  We eat very little meat so I have not been to the butcher since the pandemic began.  Neither the Co-op or IGA are accepting containers to refill at the moment.  Will this change back when things settle down?  Will it become the new normal and the years of action on single-use packaging be unravelled by one virus?  Only time will tell.

These changes have forced me to reconsider my shopping habits.  The item which has been impacted most significantly is olive oil.  I used to take a litre bottle to the Co-op for it to be refilled but now I am obliged to buy a new 750ml glass bottle for $2.95 each time I wish to buy the local, organic olive oil.

This bottle will simply be refilled from the drum of olive oil as required now.  No more bottles.

2020-05-19 01

We use a significant amount of olive oil so my interest was piqued when I saw a sponsored post on Facebook from Nuggety Creek Olives.  After a bit of reading I discovered that I could buy a 20 litre drum of olive oil for $180.00 delivered to my door.  The extra virgin olive oil is produced from olives grown without chemicals and I believe the farm is currently being audited for organic certification.

The Nuggety Creek olive oil arrived safely and is now stored in a cool, dry cupboard.  I even made a drip catcher from an old dip container and a piece of wire salvaged from the shed.

2020-05-19 02

20 litres may sound like a lot of oil but I will be sharing it with at least 3 friends.  Thinking outside the box has allowed me to continue to minimise the packaging that we generate.

Bottles filled and ready for distribution to friends.

2020-05-19 03

I have not bought any of the other items I mentioned as yet but my next project is to look into a bulk source of olives.  While I understand that all foodstuffs must come in some sort of packaging or container, unless you produce it yourself, I am keen to buy in larger quantities, and therefore, minimise the impact.

Have you considered changing your shopping habits since the pandemic began?  Would community bulk-buying be an option for at least some products?

Some More Structures

Leave a comment

Following on from the completed compost bays, I thought I would share some of our other handiwork in the garden.  Unlike the compost bays, we needed to purchase the materials for our latest endeavours.

Growing food crops invariably invites other critters who also deem it to be food.  While I am reasonably happy to share, I am not keen on seeing the entire crop destroyed.

This year has seen the inclusion of an additional pest in our garden – the citrus fruit piercing moth.  From what I have read it would appear that this is as a direct result of the extended period of drought last year followed by good rain.

We have an orchard of numerous citrus trees which generally produce a bumper crop each year but 2020 is not shaping up so well.  We have lost the entire crop of Washington navel oranges as well as the majority of the grapefruit.  These are the earliest maturing of the citrus and we are less able to assess the losses on the two Valencia orange trees as well as the two mandarins.  Fortunately, the lemon and lime trees do not appear to have been attacked much at all.

In normal seasons the only real pest to the citrus trees seems to be the scrub turkeys helping themselves.  They particularly like the mandarins.

I had previously read about using poly pipe and star pickets to create a frame for netting to cover fruit trees, however, we had never implemented this method.  A few years ago we had simply tried draping the netting directly over the tree but while it was relatively effective the netting ended up with rips in it.

The arrival of the citrus fruit piercing moth spurred me into action and we bought the supplies to create the poly pipe frame for the mandarin tree.  We chose to do this one first as it seemed to have very little damage so far which is probably due to the fruit still being quite green.  Everything I have read plus my own observation indicates that the moth attacks ripening fruit.

We used an unused net which we had over the new poly pipe frame.

2020-04-24 01

The net barely reaches the ground and I am not sure how diligent the moths are when it comes to finding their way in.  I plan to extend the length a little by adding an extra piece of netting to the bottom edge.  This will be salvaged from the previously damaged net.

The next job is to monitor the tree by torchlight at night to check for any moths which are already inside the netting.

If the netting of the mandarin tree proves to be successful in eliminating the moth as well as the scrub turkeys we will consider doing at least some of the other citrus trees.

While we were buying the supplies we made sure we also bought enough to create poly pipe tunnels over at least a couple of the garden beds.  The critter I had in my sights this time was the white cabbage moth.  Unlike the citrus fruit piercing moth, there are many and varied home-remedies to deter these pests.  However, the best prevention is to eliminate them from the brassica garden entirely.

I am determined to grow a successful crop of cauliflower this year so I  used more of the poly pipe to create hoops over the bed.

2020-04-24 02

Using some of the damaged fruit tree netting I set about making a cover.

2020-04-24 03
I included shaped ends so that it fits neatly over the hoops.

2020-04-24 04
There are a few holes which need to be patched but I am confident that this will make a difference.

I regard the money spent on supplies to create these exclusion zones as a worthwhile investment as there are a few hundred dollars worth of produce at stake – and that is just in one season.

 

Climate Act Now

Leave a comment

This post is predominately for my Australian readers, however,there is an opportunity for international guests to sign the petition if they wish.

A bit of background:

At the Federal election in May 2019 Zali Steggall was elected as an independent member of Parliament representing the electorate of Warringah on the north shore of Sydney.  This seat was previously held by the former Prime Minister, Tony Abbott.

A major prong of Zali’s campaign was a commitment to introduce a Climate Change bill to the parliament if she was elected.  This has been considered and drafted and will be presented at the end of this month.

Why does this matter to me?

It is important to sign the allied petition to indicate your support.  Additionally, you are encouraged to contact your local Federal member to voice your concern and requesting that they support the bill in a conscience vote.

03-03-2020 01

Thank you for reading and taking action as you choose.

Officially Autumn

2 Comments

Yesterday was 1st March and the official beginning of autumn in Australia.  Coincidentally, I saw this link from the Bureau of Meteorology.  This is what 1C of warming looks like.  Are you prepared for 3-4C increase in temperatures?  That is what we look like reaching this century if the government continues its current level of inaction.  Not a great future for our children and grandchildren.

Meanwhile, I do not actually need the Bureau of Meteorology to tell me about the longer summers.  It is clearly evident in my own backyard.

This photo taken today is of our liquidamber tree.  It always loses all of its leaves each year but this has become progressively later each year.  There is not even the slightest colouration of the leaves yet.

02-03-2020 01
On the other hand, I am trying to make the most of the longer summer.  I planted a second crop of corn at the beginning of February.  It takes 3 months to mature and I want to see if we can extend our summer growing season until the end of April.

02-03-2020 02

I am also growing zucchini late in the season.

02-03-2020 03

There definitely needs to be a change in mindset with regard to sowing and growing times if we are to make the most of the climate changes.

It is definitely much too warm to consider cool weather crops yet.  The forecast maximum temperatures for our area (400m elevation) are 27 – 29C for the next week and this pattern is likely to continue until the end of the month.

While hothouses allow tropical plants to be grown in cooler climates, I am wondering whether there will come a time when cooler weather crops such as cauliflower, broccoli and cabbage become impossible to grow in our location.  It seems that celery is no longer possible to grow here as the seeds need cool soil to germinate.

Food security is just one very real and present threat from climate change.

 

What We Have

1 Comment

Every day there are multiple instances where we simply use what we have and think nothing of it.  Tonight I want to share a few examples of how we use what is available and minimise buying new items.

About 10 years ago I scored a small rainwater tank on Freecycle.  It had some rust spots and was no longer suitable for collecting rainwater but I had other plans.  GMan cut it into 3 sections which we have used variously for small, raised garden beds and compost heaps.  You can see them in some of the photos in this early blog post from 2011.

Over the years they have continued to rust and deteriorate a bit more and when GMan moved one recently, he declared that it was at the end of its useful life.  However, on reflection, we decided that if we cut the worst of the rusted edge off it would be a bit shallower and would make a perfect herb garden.

The next trick was to find the best location for it.  Ideally, it would be relatively close to the house for easy picking.  After some discussion, we decided to remove the chilli bush in the corner of the vegetable garden area and place it there.  We have two other very prolific chilli bushes so removing this one was not a problem.  I removed all of the ripe chillies and added them to the bag of chillies in the freezer.

With the bush removed, it was time to position the cut-down tank.

2020-02-18 01

The next job will be to fill it with soil and select what to plant in it.

Barely 2 months ago we had a Himalayan ash tree beside our driveway lopped.  As you will see from the hyperlink, it is regarded as environmental weed where we live in southeast Queensland.  The main tree and its multiple suckers had covered quite a large area and we immediately planted a selection of native shrubs and small trees in its place.  One of these is a lovely grevillea which has grown very quickly but the 3 main branches were drooping badly.  So, we decided that the best course of action was to create an enclosure with stakes that would help to support it until it develops enough strength of its own.

2020-02-18 02

The straps connecting the stakes are some old webbing from the seat of an old armchair that GMan recently dismantled.  I stapled them to the stakes using an upholstery staple gun that has been lurking in my craft cupboard for many years.

Here is another garden project that made the most of what we had.

I needed a table for potting and planting seeds so we created this one a couple of months ago and it has proved to be very successful.

2020-02-18 03

We used an old bed frame and the slats which had previously been removed were replaced with some wire which we attached to the frame using fencing staples.  A couple of timer crossbars allowed the attachment of a pair of metal legs.  These had been salvaged from a table that my father had made many years ago.  The wire top allows for easy watering and drainage while the location on the southern side of the house gets plenty of light and some sun while still being reasonably sheltered.

The final photo is not something we had but something we were given.

2020-02-18 04

GMan planted these 5 new pineapple tops along the fenceline of the vegie garden.  Thanks, Sandra and Glenn.  We are looking forward to watching them mature and hopefully produce some delicious fruit.  It will entail being patient as pineapples take about 18 months to grow.

 

Nothing to Show

2 Comments

Tonight’s post is somewhat unexpected so let me explain.

We had planned to view a DVD with friends this afternoon in preparation for a screening to a wider audience next week.  About 15 minutes before they were due to arrive, GMan tried to load the DVD but could not open the tray.

Nothing seemed to work so in desperation he decided to unplug the player and remove the cover.  Meanwhile, I googled ‘how to fix DVD that will not open’.  Once the cover was removed and he tried to open the tray manually we located a broken ‘O’ ring.

2020-01-28 01

I was unsure where this had come from or whether it had anything to do with the current problem.  A bit more google searching revealed a You-Tube video showing how to replace a broken ‘O’ ring in a DVD player with a regular rubber band of a similar size.

Armed with the jar of rubber bands, a pair of forceps that belong to my overlocker, a scalpel and a pair of scissors, I managed to refashion a rubber band to fit.

2020-01-28 02

It was the right diameter but too thick so I cut it in half lengthwise.  I started the cut with the scalpel and completed it with the scissors then used the forceps to position it around the 2 sprockets.

We were just replacing the cover when our friends arrived so it was time to plug the DVD player in and, “Hey presto!” the tray opened and we successfully played the DVD.

2020-01-28 03

I am not advocating undertaking complex electrical repairs but we had nothing to lose by at least having a look.  With the aid of Google and You-Tube we were able to identify and solve a simple problem which would otherwise have resulted in this item going to landfill and necessitated the purchase of a new DVD player.

Decision Time

Leave a comment

This is my first post for 2020 but it does not seem right to be wishing you a ‘Happy New Year’.  The bushfire disaster in south-eastern Australia is worse than ever, with more confirmed deaths and property losses.

If anyone asked me where I have been in the 5 days since my last blog post, the best answer would be “in limbo”.  We made our way to stay with extended family in Canberra.  After record-breaking heat (44C) yesterday, the capital is now covered with a blanket of thick smoke.  Several locations, including Old Parliament House, the National Gallery and Questacon are closed and people are being advised to stay indoors.  Unfortunately, the smoke seeps into everything but our problems are minimal compared to the areas which are directly impacted.

IMG_20200105_163318

As you can see from the map below, Canberra is semi-surrounded by fires.  The yellow markers are active fires, red is emergency and the blue ones are contained.  In some cases a single marker indicates a fire which has burnt an area in excess of 150,000 hectares (about 370,000 acres).

Fire Map

Some of our extended family are in areas closer to the fires so we are constantly trying to keep track of the progress of the fires.

We plan to leave Canberra tomorrow morning and drive home over a couple of days.  The western part of New South Wales is not in the high danger area and where we live is south-east Queensland is well away from the current fires.

However, we are still at the beginning of summer and these fires may be just the beginning of a catastrophic fire season as most of the entire country is drought-affected and tinder dry.

Please stay safe wherever you are.