Month: February 2016

Harvest Monday

This weekend was jam packed with lovely weather and family time; I spent most of it in my mum’s garden with her, Pete and Olivia, pruning frangipanis and draecaenas, and re-potting bromeliads and aloe. For my efforts I’ve got a stack of tiny baby plants and a large bromeliad for the entry to my house, which I’m hoping my cats won’t eat (Charlie tries to eat everything, even capsicum and tomato!)

Zucchini
My zucchini are really starting to take off; because I planted them so late, I’ll have some coming along in the next couple of days (the start of Autumn!).

Volunteer Greens
Volunteer greens – when the old plants went to seed I left them to their own devices and let the bees have some flowers to collect their pollen from.

Eggplants and capsicums
My eggplant and capsicum bed – wildly overgrown and abundant. I’ve read that it’s best for gardeners in our hot and extremely sunny summer conditions to plant more closely together to ensure the plants have adequate shade, and from the way this garden bed has gone I think I’ll continue to do it (but I’ll keep everything other than basil away from my tomatoes).

Chilli Wicking Bed
This is a wicking bed full of chilli and capsicum plants (jalapeno, cayenne, long yellow capsicum). They were also planted late (January, from memory) so they’re starting to take off now. Because of our relatively mild winters, I’m going to try overwintering these and the eggplant and capsicum – and I’m going to use this information and a gardening log to remind myself when I’ve done things!

Weekend's harvest
The weekend’s haul, mostly picked first thing on Saturday before we went down to the markets. We now have a broody Majorca chicken, Missy, to match our broody Muscovy duck, Panda – we haven’t hit an egg shortage just yet because they’ve been pretty prolific for the last few months, but we’ll need to get some new girls to replace the ladies we lost to the summer heat and bizarre chicken obsession with parking in nesting boxes.

I hope your weekend was as fun as mine!

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Harvest Monday

 

Summer is trying to have its last hurrah,with two 38 degree days in a row right at the end of the season coinciding with Olivia teething out of nowhere (or really, I thought my mum was a little silly when she told me I’d started doing the same thing at three months and to expect it – lesson learned!).

In the evening Pete was at home so we got out into the veggie garden to check on things. The fruit trees need more water and we need to rebuild the compost section, but the irrigation that he installed is working well. The eggplants and capsicums in one bed are vying with some bolting spinach and a volunteer Tommy Toe tomato, the basil that’s with the Sweet Bite tomatoes badly needs a prune and there are some cucumbers ready to go next to another volunteer tomato plant in another bed.

The old greens bed is sprouting spinach and pak choy and so are the walkways! I need to start using the Malabar spinach that survived the Great English Spinach Takeover of 2015, which has also resulted in random spinach seedlings surrounding a bed – I planted a couple of capsicum seedlings in there to try and overwinter them on the off chance it means a head start this spring. I thought I’d lost our jalapenos this year because the big plum tomatoes in the same bed took over, but they were just hiding underneath, biding their time and they’ve got a decent amount of fruit nearly ready.

I have about ten eggplant in the kitchen waiting, which the two below have now joined along with the tiny red capsicum. The tomatoes are a mix of the volunteer Tommy Toes from the eggplant and capsicum bed and another that popped up next to the chicken coop, the Sweet Bites that have been amazing producers and the volunteer vining type that resulted in the oblong fruit. I’m probably just going to go ahead and refer to that one as feral now, since it started off in the garden bed next to it and I have absolutely no idea how it got there!

Monday's harvest
Monday’s harvest

I didn’t get out to collect eggs yesterday so we had six waiting; we really need to build the girls a proper nesting box, since they’re using an old dog kennel at the moment. Panda, our Muscovy duck is nesting at the moment and I think the chickens might need their new boxes to be out of her reach since she got a bit violent and started chasing Oswin the speckled Sussex late the other night!

Our garden to-do list now looks a bit like this;

  • Build a new compost bin so we can try hot composting
  • Build some nesting boxes for the chickens
  • Look into a new feeder – this one isn’t working for us
  • Find something to do with a lot of eggplant (Moussaka? Baba ganoush?)
  • Reseed the open spaces with more grass seeds*
  • Study the concepts of permaculture to see if it can be applied to our front yard – while roses gardens are low maintenance, they’re not producers and if we’re going to have decorative plants I’d rather they took up less space and flowered more often
  • Get over to mum’s to help her split and plant out some of her succulents and bromeliads

As much as I’m not a fan of the heat, I’ll miss the summer produce very soon – fortunately I’ve stashed a bit of summer in my freezer so I can make some preserves as time (and Olivia) allows.

* As much as I’m on team Grow Food Not Lawns, having grass present helps to keep the clay topsoil down and will also help to improve the quality of the soil over time, in addition to cooling the yard. When the chickens were free range they completely decimated it so we’re having to start from scratch.

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Cloth Nappies – What am I doing?!

During the course of my pregnancy, aside from constantly worrying that something would go wrong, I started nesting pretty badly. At some point, baby-high on the notion that my parents had cloth diapered me as a baby, I decided to try and do the same for Olivia. Pinterest, fickle mistress that she is, showed me countless adorable home-made Modern Cloth Nappies (MCN’s for your Gumtree searches). As much as I’d dearly love to be able to make her some cute Avengers or owl print nappies, time and skill weren’t on my side.

“To Gumtree!” cried my sleep deprived mind (seriously, don’t believe anyone who tells you that you’ll get amazing sleep when you’re pregnant, it’s not guaranteed). I picked up a bunch of Sassy Star velcro all-in-ones for about $80, figuring I’d get some use out of them. So far, I’m struggling to see why people like all-in-ones – while you can add in extra soakers and mine came with some cloth liners for Messy Incidents, having to wash the whole nappy every time she wets is a bit over the top. I started looking in to all-in-twos, or snap-ins, but to me, it doesn’t make sense to buy another batch of nappies I might not be happy with even though the prospect of just washing the part that needs it does appeal.

Instead, I’m going to buy a set of Kam pliers and plastic studs from eBay and convert one of my all-in-ones to a snap in nappy. So far, I spent a feed using my quick-unpick to remove the built in soaker from one nappy, so when the pliers arrive I can use it as my trial run. If I like the result, I’ll probably spend a few feeds slowly unpicking the soakers out of the rest of the nappies, and trying not to drop threads over my poor babe!

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500 Things – Update Two

Well, so far the third week of 500 Things has been going well for me – on Saturday Pete went target shooting with our friend Charl; I had a train case for his wife/my best friend Sarah and I got Pete to take it with him. On Sunday I got a response to my Freecycle offer and the mirrors went that afternoon! Pete helped the lady who collected them put them in her car and I got to tick off two large items from my list of stuff I don’t need. That night I sorted another bag of hand me down baby clothes and counted 57 items we’ll pass on to people we know who are having babies (current count is around 5!).

Monday rolled around and a co-sleeping pod we’d used for three nights before Olivia moved into her cot went to a lady from Gumtree for $20.

Over the next couple of days, I went through the last bag of hand me down baby clothes, putting eight items in the discard pile..then the CD wallets I ordered arrived. I’m sick of storing so many CD cases in the open, so all of my CDs are going in the wallets and the cases are being stashed under the bed. The CD racks can now be donated to the local op shop.

Now I’m eyeing off the kitchen cabinets – surely there’s more stuff in there that I don’t need!

Previous Total: 247
This Week: 76
New Total: 323

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500 Things – Update One

So while I’m working on restoring my old posts, I’m still also trying to get to my goal of donating or selling 500 things before the end of the year. At last count, we were up to 192 completely random items, including two tables, one of which was a beautiful 50’s laminate dinner table that I used as my sewing table (I’m not sad, just nostalgic!).

Since then I haven’t had much of an opportunity to get rid of things, though I did manage to sort through a big bag of baby clothes that have been handed down to us. Things that won’t fit Olivia totalled 55, including some unused dummies from sets she’s proven don’t meet her requirements (girl hates dummies!). I’ve popped them to the side and I’ll pass them on to one of the (at least four) pregnant ladies I know will be collecting things for their little ones.

Previous Total: 192
This Week: 55
New Total: 247

While I’ve still got lots of hand me down baby clothes to go through, I’ve also put some glass storage jars and mirrors on Freecycle, hopefully they can be of use to someone new!

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Ring sling success!

When I first found out I was pregnant, I knew that I wanted to ‘wear’ my baby. But there’s so many different types of carriers on the market, I really couldn’t figure out which would be most suitable for us (babies are headstrong creatures and have their own preferences…trust me).

While we were expecting, we bought an ErgoBaby Original; I was pretty certain that a structured carrier would suit me the best because of my pre-existing back issues – one relatively minor, awkward fall during a roller derby practise followed by no treatment for a few years did a number on my lower back and pelvis. Then, of course, we had an emergency caesarean section – you really don’t want anything touching a fresh wound on your abdomen. I decided that a stretchy would work well, and I’m sure it would have, if I was more coordinated in wrapping it and Olivia didn’t scream every time I tried to put her in when I’d finally managed to origami myself into five metres of jersey.

Back to square one.

Cut to a month ago and we go to catch up with a couple of derby chums of mine, Dave and Jade. Two children at her feet and one on the way, Jade scoops Olivia out of my (tired) arms for a cuddle and pops her into a ring sling. Now, I’d completely discounted slings because of my dodgy back and a weird assumption that the over the shoulder nature of a sling would unbalance me – Jade has had her own back issues in the past, so when she offered to lend me the sling I was already changing my mind.

I’ve been using it since then, and it’s saved my bacon (and my arms) a couple of times. Notably for me, when I took the train into Adelaide for a physio visit and Olivia insisted on being carried and it meant that I had both hands free to push her pram around! The one time I forgot it was when I’d parked a short walk from my mother’s group last Thursday and the pram refused to unfold; so I carried Olivia, her nappy bag and my tote down the street and decided I really did need to get myself into gear and find my own sling.

Cue a sleepless night on Thursday; a certain someone was up, bright eyed and bushy tailed, and once she drifted off I couldn’t quite get myself to sleep. I hit Gumtree and browsed around for a while, disappointed that no one is selling the chickens I want. Bored, I searched for ring slings and found an Oscha ring sling nearby for only $50!

We picked it up last night. It’s an older style but it’s in great condition and really comfortable, and the woman I bought it from mentioned it was her first, and the one that started her wrap collection. Right now I think I’m not determined enough to try and get myself into a woven wrap, though some of the designs could sway me one day…

In the interests of helping a friend expecting her first baby, we’re also organising a little get together so she can try on a few different kinds of wraps. Even though baby will get the final say, it gives her a chance to try and figure out what works for her first (and hopefully, she won’t have to get to her third carrier before that happens!).

The communities I’ve discovered since being pregnant really make me wonder how expectant mothers who don’t have anyone to count on get by; without the help of my friends, I’d still be trying to figure out what would work for me!

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A new old beginning

Last week I decided to change my domain name. You know how it goes, you get a bright idea and figure it’ll be easy to put into action?

Nope. Nopenopenopenopenopenope.

Consequently, my old posts are unpublished…they’re in there, but I can’t get to them. I’ve put things back the way they were a little bit, but it’s going to take me some time and patience to restore the posts. Time is in short supply when babies need cuddling through their leaps, so it’ll happen when I get to it, rather than being a priority.

And that’s what I’ve spent some of my free time in the last week doing – trying to fix my mess. Oh well, at least I got an interesting learning experience out of it!

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Garden

 

When I moved into this house, a fixer upper that needs a lot of work in the temperate clay plains of suburban South Australia, I had grand plans for a vegetable garden. My partner at the time helped me, and we planted out tomato and capsicum seedlings directly into the clay soil underneath an immense gum tree. Our dogs dug the garden up, the soil was no where near welcoming to the plants and I learned some things.

Next I tried pots. Potted plants are fantastic if you have them in a good soil blend and you remember to water them. I’m forgetful and didn’t have good soil, and I learned more.

I replaced a boundary fence and was left with a pile of corrugated iron; I decided to build no-dig garden beds. I bought flashing from the hardware store and drilled holes in the fence sheets, built garden beds and filled them with soil from the local sand and metal yard, pea straw and manure, shredded paper and cardboard. I watered them carefully, learning to dodge spiders in the dark, and for the first time I had success growing something other than aloe vera (truthfully, when growing up I lost a cactus to neglect).

The next year I was given irrigation hosing by my aunt, and patched together a little irrigation system for my raised beds. I bought chickens and surrounded the plants in the beds with chicken wire because they kept stealing my kale. I grew okra and tomatoes, and was given a Muscovy duck.

I met Pete and together, we re-arranged the raised garden beds and he used his ex-plumbing supplier know how to help me understand my garden better. He built a coop for the chickens as they were finding ways past the chicken wire (our largest girl Oswin is also our most cunning thief). One day we’d love to move to a larger property, but for now we’re experimenting in our little garden and growing as much as we can.

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