A Working Weekend

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I really felt as though I was back into the swing of things at home this weekend.  We achieved a great deal and by yesterday evening I was too tired to contemplate writing a blog post.  So here it is, better late than never.

We bought 3 new chickens who seem to be settling in well.  This brings the number back up to 6.

GMan managed to do the first coat of paint on the outdoor table as well as mowing and lots of work around the yard.

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This is our old outdoor table but instead of re-oiling we decided on a facelift and I think it will look great on the newly renovated verandah.  We bought some new black chairs from IKEA earlier in the year to go with it.

In between washing, ironing and preparing some meals for the coming week I managed to spend some time in the garden.

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The cherry tomato plants had just gone wild while we were away but it has been too cool for them to develop and ripen the fruit so it was time to pull some of them out and rediscover the garden beds.

Once I had cleared one bed, I emptied the compost from the tumbler and added some of it to the bed.

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We use whatever receptacles we can find for compost and the latest addition is the small rubbish bin in the background of the photo.  GMan removed the rusted base and it is now full of weeds and some tomato plants.  Eventually it will break down and then we can simply lift the whole bin off and we will have a pile of compost.

I bought and planted 3 punnets of seedlings – bok choy, zucchini and lettuce.

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There is much more that I want to do in the vegie patch but it will have to wait for another day.

 

The Patch – An Update

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In my post from yesterday I mentioned the new garden hose.  GMan unpacked and set it up today.  Here it is.

2015-07-05 01The hose retracts onto the reel inside the case which swivels on the black spindle.  Here is another view with the hose slightly extended.

2015-07-05 02The 30 metre hose extends from the existing tap to the vegetable garden area.  We do need more hose to reach the blueberries and the yet-to-be-built beds on the far side.  We put some of the new fittings onto one of the old hoses and hung it inside the garden area.  That way we can extend the new hose, attach the extra bit and we can water the whole of the vegetable garden area with ease.

2015-07-05 03GMan put this bracket on one of the posts to store the extra hose.  The bracket was one that had come from my father and proved to be perfect for our needs.

I have really neglected the garden for several weeks but nevertheless we still have things growing.  I weeded the flower garden that I made a few months ago and found that I even had some flowers.

2015-07-05 04These heartsease had managed to grow from seed and thrive among the weeds.  I have weeded the bed and transplanted some so that there is now a border of them in front of the sweet peas.

2015-07-05 05Finally, I wanted to show you the garlic that I have growing and also the celery which is now ensconced in cut-down milk bottles to encourage the stems to grow upright in a bunch rather than spreading out everywhere.

2015-07-05 06I hope you have had a great weekend and that the weather has been kind enough to get outdoors.

Progress in The Patch

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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.

War on Weeds

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It is the height of summer here and over the past 4 weeks we have been blessed with warm to hot days (27 – 32C) and intermittent showers and storms.  The rainfall has been over 100mm in the last fortnight.  Your can almost hear the vegetation growing and everything is green and lush.

2015-01-15 01Unfortunately, the weeds are loving the weather and thriving as much as the plants that are supposed to be growing.

Since we live on an acreage, we are never going to have a pristine garden but I do prefer not to have it overgrown with weeds so it seems to be a never-ending battle to keep them at bay.  The Duke tends to use a combination of whipper-snippering, glyphosate and simply pulling them out.  The glyphosate is banned from anywhere near the vegetable garden but unfortunately it has been a necessary evil on other parts of the block.

I recently received some information from my friend, S, over at My Life is A Balancing Act.  Although she hasn’t posted this on her blog, I think it is worthy of a mention.

Super Effective Weed Spray – Cost: $2.50 for 4 litres weed spray

  • 4 litres white vinegar
  • 1 cup salt
  • 1 tbsp washing up detergent
  • Mix well. Spray on weeds to kill them. This is a very effective weed spray so only spray it on the things you want to kill. It is excellent for weeding paths and pavers and along the edges of garden beds.

It sounds easy and even piqued the interest of The Duke.

Before I rush out and buy a bulk quantity of vinegar I decided to test it out.  There is no shortage of places to try.

This is a patch of the weeds in what can best be described as the future garden bed in front of the verandah.

2015-01-15 02We have planted several hibiscus shrubs that are the beginning of the new plantings and there are some old shrubs which will need to be removed but there is a lot of bare earth which the weeds are really enjoying!

I had 1 litre of white vinegar so made up a 1/4 mix of the recipe and filled a small spray bottle.

2015-01-15 03I sprayed weeds until I had used up all of my mix so now it is just a matter of waiting.  According to S, I should see wilted and dying weeds within 24 – 48 hours.

I will be back on Saturday with an update on this project.  If it shows signs of being successful, I will be looking for somewhere that I can buy a bulk quantity of vinegar and also buying a backpack sprayer as S suggested because my hand is exhausted from just spraying a small area of weeds.

Weekend Work

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After spending my weekdays in the office there is nothing I enjoy more than spending time in the garden on the weekend.  I will start with what we actually did last weekend.

We finally finished building this raised garden bed.  There are now 4 beds complete and we eventually plan to have 9 of them.  The cardboard is a large carton that was the packaging from the refrigerator we bought last year.  We always keep any large pieces of cardboard as it makes a great base for the beds and is very effective at smothering the underlying grass before eventually breaking down.  I will cover the remainder of the base with some more cardboard before gradually filling the bed with a combination of fallen leaves, mulch, compost and grass clippings which will, over time, become rich soil.  It will all be sourced from our block.

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We also created a bed for the asparagus.  Since asparagus grows very vigorously and spreads, we wanted to make sure that we are able to contain it.  The Duke dug a trench and buried some offcuts of Colorbond steel to a depth of 320mm to form the border of the asparagus bed.  Here is the work in progress.

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This is what it looked like once we had finished and planted the asparagus.

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The lettuce seeds I planted a couple of weeks ago have not put in an appearance so yesterday I bought some seedlings and planted them in between the corn which is growing nicely.

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The other thing we did today was to start to tidy up around the citrus trees.  Here is the lime tree with a new border of rocks and some mulch.  You can the orange tree behind it and grapefruit to the far right which have been bordered with rocks and now I just need to finish weeding them and put the mulch down.

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We decided to border the other orange tree and the lemon tree in one large area.  The Duke collected up the rocks from down the back near the water tanks.  We have an abundance of volcanic rocks on the property so it is good to be able to use them.

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I have planted more seeds – most expired by several years – so will see how they go.  Lettuce, radish, chilli, tomato and bok choy all went in today.  I am determined to grow more of our own food and am hopeful of greater success now that the vegetable patch is completely fenced.

The New Arrivals

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On Thursday evening there was a card in our mailbox advising that there was a large parcel at the Post Office for us to collect.  We collected the box early on Friday morning before we went to work.  It was our fruit trees that we ordered online from Daley’s Nursery.  We ordered 12 blueberry bushes and a passionfruit vine.

New plants
Here is the box after I had slit one side open (as suggested in the attached instructions).  The plants were well-packed and in excellent condition.  Once again, we followed the directions and removed all of the wrapping and put them out in full sun.

Blueberry bushes
We watered them well and have placed them in the area where they will be planted  – hopefully tomorrow.  It may be a bit difficult to see in the photo but I had already placed rocks to mark where we are going to plant them so it will be a relatively simple matter of digging the holes.  The ground is quite soft as we have had some rain.  Blueberries thrive in a slightly acidic soil.  I have never actually tested the pH of our soil but the other indicator is that azaleas and camellias grow really well in our area and they like very similar conditions.

We have four other blueberry shrubs which are in the area which is now the chicken run.  You can read about them in this previous post.  We did not give them as much care as they probably needed but we still managed to harvest about 1.5kg of berries this summer.  That was predominantly from 2 shrubs.  We have now pruned them quite hard and mulched them thoroughly.

The other exciting news is that we have completely finished fencing the vegetable garden area.

Vegie garden and fencing

As well as the completed fencing you may also be able to see the black hoops over the garden bed in the distance.  This is some large poly pipe which I am planning to use as a frame for some exclusion netting to keep the white cabbage moth off the broccoli, kale, cabbages and cauliflower.  I am looking at buying the vege netting from Green Harvest.  We are fortunate that this business is located in Maleny so we are able to place our order online and then pick it up in person.

The chickens are rather unhappy that they are now permanently excluded from the garden area and all of the freshly dug soil and earthworms.

Sustainable House Day 2013

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Sustainable House Day 2013 is an opportunity to check out a variety of dwellings in your area with sustainable features.  You can check out the website here.

We have chosen to be involved and are included in this list.  If you are in the area and would like to see ‘The Castle’ in real life please come and say hello.

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I am looking forward to being able to show people some of the features of our house and garden which reduce our impact on the environment and invariably save us money at the same time.

Demolition Derby

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We have managed to get a bit more done in the garden this weekend but is has not been all about building.  Some of it has entailed destruction – namely demolishing the original vegetable gardens.

Vegie Garden

This is what it looked like about 2 years after we moved here.  These beds served us well but we are now working on a revamped plan.  So far we have built 3 raised beds and eventually there will be nine of them in a fully-fenced garden area.

New garden beds

You can see some of the old beds in the enclosure in the background of the photo above.  Below is what it looks like now.

Demolished

You can see the posts for the chicken run in the background.  That will share a common fence with the bottom of the garden enclosure.  The string line on the left hand side marks the eastern boundary of the vegetable garden enclosure.  As well as the 9 raised beds I plan to grow herbs in beds along the fence line nearest to the house and asparagus and rhubarb on the eastern side.  I do not want these in one of the raised beds as they are perennials rather than annuals.  There will also be chilli bushes and blueberries nearest to the front boundary as well as a screened area for the compost tumblers.  We have one tumbler at the moment and will probably get a second one as well as keeping one ‘open’ compost bay.  I am quite keen to clear up the ‘Steptoe & Son’ arrangement that is there at the moment with a cut down rainwater tank as well as a rusty 44 gallon drum.

We put in 4 more posts for the chicken run fencing so next weekend we should be able to attach at least some of the top rails and the strainer wires.  Because the fence is 1800mm high in this section we will have three horizontal wires.  One at the top, one close to the ground and the other in the middle so this should prevent any sagging of the fencing wire.  We are using heavy gauge chicken wire as our plan is to make sure that the chickens do not get out nor any unwanted guests finding their way into the run.

Our original plan included incorporating a coop into the run but it all got too complicated so we have opted to have a ready-made, freestanding coop situated in the run.  It will be something like this.

My Day

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Most of what I post is about a particular project or activity but tonight I thought I would share my Saturday with you.  Our weekends are precious and we try to make the most of the time.

I work full-time and have a lengthy commute, so during the week it is usually all I can manage to prepare and eat dinner and make our packed lunches.  Sometimes I do the ironing but that is about the limit.

The Duke and I are the only ones at home and many things have been simplified and streamlined.

I woke at 5.30am so I quickly hopped up and put a load of washing on.  I am trying to be more diligent about using power before sunrise and after sunset.  This means we maximise the benefit of the solar panels by exporting to the grid at 50c/kWh and using it (at night) for 28c/kWh.

Once the washing was on I crawled back into bed and read my book for an hour.  Then it was time to be up and going.

Breakfast eaten, dishes done and washing hung out.  The Duke put a loaf of bread on to bake in the breadmaker.  The bed stripped and remade.  A second load of washing sorted and ready to wash this evening.  Handwashing done.

Floors swept, vanity and mirror cleaned.  While I am doing these jobs, The Duke is sorting out finances and adjusting the budget.

That is enough housework for the day so it is time to head outdoors on this gorgeous autumn day to work on some of our projects.  It is not quite 9am.

2012-08-05 01At least one of the chickens has been doing a fine imitation of Houdini recently so we need to make some repairs to the chicken run to make sure they are contained.  We use some tent pegs to anchor some of the wire to the ground so hopefully that problem is sorted.

In January The Duke and my brother-in-law replaced a large portion of our front boundary fence.  We also put new wire along the front of the house below the verandah.  This was not finished off and tensioned and it has been a source of much debate as to exactly how we would do it.  A few weeks ago, The Duke painted some timber which he attached to the metal posts at each end so that we could secure the wire.  Today we tensioned the wire and attached it to the posts.

2013-05-04 02Time for a break and lunch.

We also needed to find a solution to securing from the end of the wire to the wall of the workshop and had decided that we would construct a concrete block wall and then top it with a piece of timber lattice.

The Duke painted the lattice last weekend.  We had also poured the first part of the concrete footing for the block wall.

Today we laid the first few blocks.  It is quite a challenge working in a confined space so we will be very glad when it is done.  We are certainly not giving up our day jobs but I am very happy with what we have achieved so far.  Once the wall is built to level at the left-hand end in the photo, we will place the lattice on top of the wall and secure it at both ends.

Block wallEven though almost everything we have constructed recently has come from second-hand or salvaged materials I am mindful that I do to not want it looking like Steptoe & Son.

I have been working on the design and plans for our vegetable garden fencing and a new chicken run adjacent to the garden.  This afternoon we marked out the position of the corner posts and discussed the location of the hen house.  We also checked how many posts we already have and it looks as though we will only have to buy a few more.  These are mostly the longer ones which we need for the higher fencing around the chicken run.

2013-05-04 04Once the sun had set I put on the load of washing I sorted this morning.  Then it was time for a shower, prepare dinner and watch Gardening Australia (my inspiration).  I checked the solar inverter – the panels generated 19kWh today.  That is pretty good when it is only a little over 6 weeks until the shortest day of the year.

Dinner was eaten, washing hung out and the final load put in the machine.

The last load of washing is finished and once I finish this post I will hang it out.  I use the clothesline under the verandah so it is safe and easy to access at night.

It has been a full and productive day.  I am happily exhausted and will enjoy a good night’s sleep.

I hope you had a good day and I am looking forward to doing it all again tomorrow.

Success

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We have had chickens for about 6 years now but in the last 12 months the most recent ones have been broadening their horizons.  They wander beyond our boundaries and have been making a nuisance of themselves by scratching on the neighbour’s property.  So for the last few weeks we have had to keep them shut up mostly except when we are around to closely supervise their whereabouts.

In the long term we plan to rebuild the chicken house in a different location and have a substantial fenced area where they will be able to roam.  However, this is not going to happen immediately as it is to be done in conjunction with fencing the vegetable garden area and some other landscaping.

2012-05-31 01 So, today I have put some nylon bird-netting over the fence and gate where I think they get out and seem to have successfully kept the chickens in our yard.

We also have some temporary fencing around the vegetable gardens as they are diligent when it comes to looking for tasty morsels, and there are plenty of earthworms in the garden.

2012-05-31 02And here are a couple of photos of the girls happily scratching in an area that is perfect for them.

2012-05-31 04Having a lovely time in the leaf litter…………

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