In the Garden

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The past week has been full of activity which didn’t leave a lot of time for writing.

Lat week we had our first overnight guests as well as other visitors for lunch one day.

Meanwhile GMan has made a start on refashioning the garden a little. This photo shows the garden as we inherited it although the trees have grown somewhat. In fact they had grown so that much of the canopy was actually above the gutter. They are deciduous and as it is autumn (or officially winter in the past few days) much of the debris was ending up in the gutter. What wasn’t in the gutter was on the patio and subsequently being walked into the house.

So we agreed that these two specimens needed to go. This is the result. The next step is to hopefully dig the stumps out so that we can add some plantings more appropriate to the location and space.

Yesterday morning was a trip in the ute to the local rubbish dump to take a load of tree cuttings. The weather did not co-operate and this was the view. GMan persevered and had it unloaded fairly quickly.

We know that there will be more removal and renewal of plantings as we gradually decide on our preferences for the garden.

We would like to devote a bit more space to food production and some of this may be at the front of the house in the north-facing space but that requires some realignment of existing elements. In the meantime, we planted some broccoli seedlings this afternoon and rigged up some temporary fencing to protect them from the dog.

Cold Frame Construction


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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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.

Garden Notes – Seedling Success


It is 8 days since I planted the seeds which I wrote about in my previous post and I am pleased to report success, almost beyond my wildest dreams.

Here are the trays of cabbage and cauliflower.  It looks as though the germination rate was almost 100%.

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The cauliflower had begun to lean towards the sun so I brought them out from their sheltered spot and they are now in the full sun on some mesh which is covering one of the garden beds.  The mesh is to keep the scrub turkeys out of the sweet potato which I transplanted from the compost heap.

The broccoli seedlings are also looking good but a few days behind the others.

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The germination rate of these is also excellent as I think there were only 20 seeds in the packet – they are a hybrid bred specifically for our warmer sub-tropical climate.

The celery and spinach are still in the sheltered area and I continue to be hopeful.  I think I can see some celery just poking through the soil but the spinach are not showing any signs of life just yet.

The red cabbage seedlings have doubled in size in a week and the beans which I planted directly in the bed are growing at a rapid pace.

On another note, and related to the garden, I wanted to show you a bit of work we did last week.

When we fenced the area for the vegetable garden we installed a couple of gates.  Due to the slope of the land we set this timber sleeper beneath the wide gate.  It has stayed in position and works well.

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There did not seem to be a need under the standard width gate but over time we have noticed that the ground had settled and a few rocks were placed to thwart the efforts of the chickens to access the enclosed area.

So last weekend we found another sleeper and cut a piece for this gate.

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I need to encourage the grass to grow on this side of the gate.  I am not worried about the enclosed area as that will eventually all be mulched with no grass at all.

While we were doing this we decided to also do the gate for the chicken run which had the same problem.

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The gate is propped open as the girls were out free-ranging when I took this photo this afternoon.

Garden Notes – Raspberries and Rocket


We have fruit trees and a vegetable garden.  Some years the vegetables garden does better than others.  A lot depends on the weather and how organised I am.

This year I have decided that I will make a concerted effort to successfully produce more of our own food.  Since the hot summer is over and we finally have some moderate autumn weather I have made a start on planting.

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The lettuce and kale seedlings which I planted about 5 weeks ago are now thriving full-sized plants and we are enjoying plenty of fresh lettuce.  I planted red cabbage seedlings about 10 days ago and they are established and looking healthy.

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On the weekend I sorted through a pile of seed packets which I store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.  Many of them are expired but I decided that I had nothing to lose by planting them.

There are bush beans interplanted with the red cabbage. Coriander and rocket are in the freshly-dug strip in the background of the same photo.  I am excited to report that exactly 48 hours after planting them, the rocket seeds have germinated and I now have hundreds of tiny, two-leaved seedlings.  Other beds have carrot, red onion, peas and radishes.  If they all grow I will have a bumper harvest, if not I will try again with some fresh seeds.

Some seeds are best raised in seed trays before transplanting them.  These include broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, celery and spinach.  Here they are on a temporary potting table which I created from a couple of sawhorses and a piece of pool fencing.  There is another piece of pool fencing over the top in an attempt to prevent the chickens from digging them up when they are free-ranging.

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Here is a close-up of the trays with their labels cut out of an old ice-cream container.

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Finally, I wanted to show you the raspberry canes on the left-hand side of the photo below.

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We have a substantial clump of raspberry canes from the original 4 canes that we planted about 3 years ago.  In an attempt to control the growth of these we have tried to contain them using star pickets and a couple of strands of wire.  When we dig up the canes which are beyond the designated area we will plant them in the vacant area beside the gate.  Our goal is to have a raspberry patch stretching from the front boundary to the gate and extending 600mm either side of the fence which forms part of the garden enclosure.

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Many people are quite surprised that we can grow raspberries in our climate.  Ours are an autumn fruiting variety which are suited to our climate and we are very happy with the yield.  This year has been the best crop so far.  While we are not exactly inundated I am picking about 50 – 100g every few days at the moment and that is definitely enough to have for dessert with some ice-cream.

Growing our own food means that it is raised without pesticides and artificial fertiliser, it comes with no additional packaging and it saves us money.  What is there not to love?




Progress in The Patch


Our vegetable garden area  has been a work in progress for several years and continues to be so.  However, I feel as though we have taken a giant leap forward today.

We had a load of soil delivered yesterday.

2015-03-28 01This was the view of the area yesterday.

2015-03-28 02The three beds in the foreground have been established for some time and the top one currently has lettuce and bok choy and the bottom one has beans and bok choy while the middle one is empty after having cleared out the remnants of tomato and cucumber plants.  This bed needs topping up with additional soil.  In the background towards the chicken coop is a clump of sweet potato growing in a small cut-down rainwater tank.  Of course, it has overflowed and is growing across the ground towards the fence.

The lower two beds in the background have a small amount of leaf litter and mulch but are yet to be used.  At the top of the second row is the sixth raised bed partially built.  We still need to finish cutting the iron to size and attach the sides.

We started early today and moved the soil to fill the completed beds.  This is all that was left this afternoon when we had finished.

2015-03-28 03Then it was time to add the sides to the final bed.  Remember the sweet potato I pointed out in the earlier photo?  We dug it all up and harvested a bucketful of decent sized sweet potatoes.  There were lots of small ones but we have sacrificed them for the long-term plan.  I planted several pieces of vine that had significant root growth as well as numerous potatoes that were shooting.  These all went into the bottom bed.  The remainder of the soil from where the sweet potatoes were growing went into the base of the last bed.  We then salvaged several wheelbarrow loads of leaf mulch from behind the rainwater tank and finally added the garden soil.

2015-03-28 04Here are the 6 raised beds filled with soil and I have planted some cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and kale seedlings that we bought last weekend.  There is still plenty of space so I am planning to plant some seeds as well.

The other thing I did today was to trim and tidy up the basil which has gone completely rampant.  I even found some new plants so I potted some and planted others in the garden bed.  I have tied the clumps of basil up to the fence to stop them spreading all over the ground.  The basil are in the foreground of the photo below.

2015-03-28 05Tomorrow, I am hoping to dig another garden bed along the fenceline as it heads towards the front of our property.  The plan is to plant flowers in that bed.  I have bought sweet pea seeds and intend to grow them using the fence as a trellis. but more about that another day.

Autumn Activities

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No, I am not buried under a stash of fabric.  In fact, I have not touched my sewing this week so there was no “Sew My Stash Sunday” post this week.  It is easy to see how I get side-tracked and the sewing languishes.  I will get back on track though.

The week was taken up with work and my weekend was spent in the garden and the kitchen.

I retrieved 6kg of cherry tomatoes from the freezer and made sauce (ketchup) as we had run out.  The recipe and details are here.

2015-03-16 01The lemon cordial was made using lemon juice that was frozen from last season.

The Duke and I continued working  on the garden beds and now have 5 completed and the sixth one well underway.

2015-03-16 02The bed in the foreground has lettuce as well as some bok choy seedlings that I transplanted.  The bottom bed has bok choy and ‘Purple King’ climbing beans.  I need to put up some trellis as the beans as almost ready to climb.  The seed is some that I had saved as I think this is one of my favourite beans.  They are purple when picked and change colour when they are cooked.

2011-05-28 01It is still mostly hot here but we do catch faint hints of autumn.  I have bought some seeds but we will also be buying some seedlings at the Yandina Market next Saturday.  We have a relatively short season for growing cool weather crops so we need to be ready and buying seedlings is one way to do it.I would love to grow all my crops from seed but it is just not practical while we are working full-time.

My other big project at the moment is sorting out the photos.  The first step is reinstating all of the photos to the old blog posts.  It is not finished but I am well on the way.  In the process I have found plenty of interesting posts which I will share on ‘Flashback Friday’ each week.  Please feel free to search the archives and see what you find.  If you discover a post which looks like it is missing photos please let me know and I will endeavour to add them.

Finally – A Fence

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We have been living here for over 8 years now and when we moved in there were no vegetable gardens and only 3 fruit trees – avocado, orange and lemon in rather odd spots in the yard.  We built some vegetable gardens which have evolved over time and the chicken run has been moved and is now next to the vegetable gardens.  Since free-ranging chickens and vegetable gardens do not go terribly well together we decided to fence the entire area containing the garden beds.  This has been a very long-winded process but we can finally see the end in sight.

Today we actually did one run on fencing and here is the result.

We hope to finish the fencing which will enclose the vegetable garden area next weekend.  It should mean an end to the various bits of wire contraptions that I create to keep the chickens away from the seedlings.

These are peas and pak choy seedlings that we bought at the Yandina markets on Saturday.  We also bought lettuce, broccoli, cabbage, kale and cauliflower which are in the other beds.

Beans and radishes
Here are the purple beans and radishes which have come up from seed I planted a couple of weeks ago.

What are you growing in your garden at the moment?

Digging in the Dirt

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Today we have been out in the garden.  Vegetable gardens dug over and mushroom compost added.  Then it was time to plant out our winter crops.  Broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, snow peas, strawberries as well as red and brown onions.

Most of them were bought as seedlings but I did have a go at raising some from seed.  The cabbages were from seed as are one lot of broccoli and one of cauliflower.  They are somewhat less advanced than the seedlings so hopefully it will spread the harvesting out over a longer period of time.

Continuing on yesterday’s theme of using up everything, I made some pumpkin and sultana scones with some mashed pumpkin that had been thawed from the freezer and not completely used.  I did not get to make the lemon butter so that will have to wait for another day.

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Back to Basics

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A new year is a good time to remind myself of my aim.  It is to live simply while adhering to the principles of organisation and sustainability.

Today I have done something that ticks both boxes.  It may seem like a small, or almost insignificant action, but I see it as worthwhile.

After doing a trial last year, our council have decided to offer the option of receiving rates notices by email.  When I saw this mentioned in a promotional booklet before Christmas, I sent an request for this option.  I have now registered our details, and while I am not exactly looking forward to our next rates notice, it is good to know that I can receive this notification electronically.  This means that there is no paper used (sustainable), the council saves money on postage and I do not have to handle and file the paperwork as it lands directly in my inbox (organised).

We receive as much correspondence as possible electronically.  This includes statements, phone and internet bills.  There are probably others that I cannot think of right at the moment.  Automatic payments and direct debits also help to streamline and simplify the business of running a household.  By automating as much as possible this leaves more time for doing productive and fun things.

Speaking of productive activities, yesterday The Duke and I planted out 23 rockmelon (cantaloupe) seedlings.  If they all thrive and produce fruit I will be able to run a market stall!  Some were planted in the rather desolate area nicknamed ‘the snakepit’.  It is a barren patch near the low part of the garden and seems to be filled with rubble.  Some months ago I managed to plant a couple of pumpkin seedlings which i had rescued from the compost heap and they are doing well.  I counted at least 10 tiny pumpkins growing on the vine yesterday.

Do you receive mail electronically or have automatic payments set up in order to streamline the business of running your household?  What other strategies do you use?  I would love to hear your thoughts.