Making and Growing

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It rained almost all day yesterday and today has been a succession of intermittent showers.

I had managed to plant some more seedlings before the rain started.

New snow pea seedlings.

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Eggplant seedlings.

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The climbing beans are thriving and enjoying the trellis.

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Lettuce and bok choy growing quickly.

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GMan created a new bed for the cauliflower seedlings.  It is located where the compost heap was so the soil is particularly good.  As an aside, GMan is working on building new compost bays so there will be more about that before too long.

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Meanwhile I have not been completely lazy.  I made covers for the armrests of the sofa.  On one of them I added a pocket to hold the remote controls.  The fabric I used is the leftovers from the upholstered seats of the dining suite chairs.

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I try to mix the days up with outcome-based activities interspersed with day-to-day housework and periods of complete relaxation.

 

 

Buying with Purpose, Not Panic

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There has been a lot written in recent days about people panic buying everything from toilet paper to rice, pasta and Panadol.

We have plenty of foodstuffs and have continued to top-up more perishable items like cheese and butter.  Today I did my small version of panic-buying.  This was prompted when I broke a sewing machine needle yesterday.  I went to the drawer to get out another and found that it was the last of my regular machine needles.  I still had some heavy-duty ones which are designed for jeans and heavy fabrics like denim.

Here is the result of what is likely to be one of our last forays into the shops apart from a basic weekly (or less) grocery shop.

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Spotlight for 3 packs of sewing machine needles, a new pastry brush and a couple of packets of seeds from Bunnings.  The needles should last me for many years but the prospect of being stuck at home with piles of potential sewing and no needles was too much to bear.  In the past few days the media has been reporting that seeds and seedlings are being cleared out everywhere.  My own experiences this week would make me agree with that assessment.  GMan offered the observation that you can’t eat sweet peas!  However, they are one of my favourite flowers, they make me happy and it is the right time to plant them so they came home with me.

Then it was off to another Bunnings as GMan continued his quest (unsuccessfully) to purchase a new wheelbarrow.  We checked out the garden section and were surprised and delighted to find plenty of vegetable seedlings.  I think there must have been a very recent delivery so I took advantage of this and bought punnets of cauliflower, celery, pak choy and eggplant seedlings as well as a well-established capsicum plant.

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The cauliflower, celery and pak choy seedlings had not been thinned out so I did that when we arrived home and found that I ended up with 29 cauliflower seedlings and 24 each of celery and pak choy seedlings.  I am now keeping my fingers crossed that they all survive.

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I hope to share and swap some of these seedlings with others in my extended family so that we can all benefit from nutritious, home-grown produce.

Growing Up

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One way to maximise the growing space you have available is to consider vertical gardening.  There are fancy prepared kits, DIY pallet gardens or you can simply choose to attach containers to an existing wall or fence.

Even though we have an extensive garden area there are always opportunities to grow plants in a vertical manner.  It may be to contain a vigorous climbing pant, create a screen or to make it easier to pick produce.

Here are some examples from our garden at the moment.

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Stake pyramid with twine and the snake beans heading upwards.

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More beans, this time with a trellis made from some leftover reinforcing mesh.

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Cherry tomatoes trained and tied to the perimeter fence of the vegie garden.

Vertical gardening is not just confined to food crops.

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Here is the mandevilla making its way up the side of the freestand pergola entrance to the garden.  We have 2 planted on each side of the structure and in time they will cover it entirely.

Officially Autumn

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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.

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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.

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I am also growing zucchini late in the season.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

Finding Balance

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It is a little over 6 months since I finished work and I am now beginning to look at how I manage my time at home.

While I was working it was the time available which dictated what I achieved at home.  However, now that has all changed as my time is my own.

The first 6 months were taken up with the final preparations for our overseas trip followed by 9 weeks overseas then it was less than 2 months until Christmas and a road trip and family Christmas.

My activities can be roughly divided into the following categories (in alphabetical order, not priority):

Cooking – meal preparation – sometimes in bulk
Exercise – aquarobics, gym and walking
Gardening – growing vegetables, flowers and shrubs
Household maintenance/renovations – usually in conjunction with GMan
Online/Computer – blog, Facebook, emails
Relaxing – reading, music, television
Routine housework – making bed, washing, ironing, sweeping, vacuuming
Sewing – clothes, mending, patchwork and Boomerang bags
Socialising – book club, film society, theatre, friends, family, Air BnB guests
Shopping – groceries and miscellaneous
Travel – local, interstate and overseas

By their very nature, housework and cooking tend to occur everyday.  Formal exercise is twice a week but I am trying to include either some walking or gardening every other day.

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I try to find time for some gardening, relaxing and computer work each day.

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Sewing and socialising usually happen several days a week.

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Shopping is as little as possible but groceries are mostly once a week.

Some activities cross over such as aquarobics and socialising.  I also try to combine activities and errands to limit the number of trips I make into our local town (8km away).

From time to time a particular activity may demand a substantial block of time to the exclusion of almost everything else but I generally try to keep a mix of activities each day or so.

 

 

 

Gardening in Extreme Heat

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My apologies to those of you who live in the northern hemisphere.  Here in Australia summer has just begun (officially) after having sweltered through the driest and second-hottest spring on record.  Daily temperatures in excess of 30C, and sometimes 35C, have been the new normal here for several weeks.  Hot, dry and windy days have increased the fire risk to ‘severe’ on many days.  We live at about 400m above sea level and within 30km of the coast so our conditions are nothing like those facing the drought-stricken farmers further west.

Growing food in our current weather is a challenge but one I am prepared to try.  Summer means salads and salads mean lettuce.  So, I am growing lettuce.  I have some in one of the main garden beds which was grown from seed as well as some in styrofoam boxes that were purchased seedlings.

I water the plants thoroughly twice a day – early in the morning and again late in the afternoon.  I cover them during the day and so far this seems to be an effective strategy.

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We picked the first leaves today and are looking forward to plenty more salads based on lettuce grown without chemicals within 10 metres of our back door and completely devoid of packaging.

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