Monday, December 27, 2010

Garden Update

This last fortnight or so around Christmas we have been experiencing what the local fishermen call The Black Easterly.

The weather has been warm, quite comfortable actually with lots of cloud cover and rather overcast with a strong wind from the east, hence the term Black Easterly. This is apparently caused around this time of the year by higher temperatures in Perth and to the north. Perth had 39/40 degrees celcius (102.2 F) Christmas Day. This creates a pressure system that scoops down the coast in an anti-clockwise direction past Cape Leeuwin and circles around to the coast and overland delivering strong easterly winds and off-shore breezes to Albany and the Great Southern region.

Today however the sky is blue for us and the wind is gentler, but still drying and consistent.

The tadpoles I brought back from my brothers place have all changed to frogs and are the most delightful little friends around the pond. They are Motorbike Frogs - due to the sound of their call and I spied two this morning on the edge of the pond. One was dark against a piece of the plastic liner and the other had just come out of the water and was a vivid lime green colour with a yellow stripe down it the length of its back and a stylishly black line through its eye from the tip of its mouth to half-way down its side. The contrast between the two was amazing and I wasn't aware that they changed colour so extremely.

The choko vine near the clothes line is now making its way along parts of the deck as is the grapw vine that we planted last autumn. The passionfruit has slowed down its growth and is setting fruit which will probably be ready in a few weeks once the heat comes a little more extreme.

Leading up to Christmas one of the mallees lost one half of its brances and I had to cut it out and I mulched the small limbs to put on the garden and made some into roosts for the chook coop.

The other fairly major things that were going on were the arrival of the chooks -written about below- and a huge quantity of grass clippings delivered by a friend with a lawn-mowing round. This is lawn from rather large community areas where the lawn is not really fertilised or sprayed very much so I was happy to take it as the garden is needing that extra bulk.

Also, I placed bids in a silent auction by the local city council for steel and wood shelving and some work benches. I won quite a number of the bids and had an interesting afternoon shifting it with just a single trailor and the aid of my dad, brother and a very switched on young, fork-lift operator called Ben. Most of this I have placed into the shed to organise it much better and give me more working space and the ability to find things more quickly and easily. The rest is going to be used under the house decking to create other pieces of garden infrastructure that will assist with my new ventures of seed saving, aquaponics and worm farming.

The sunflowers are flowering and I did lose one the other night to the ominous Black Easterly, but it hadn't started to bud open just yet which was good. The first one to flower has now started to form seeds and must be an incredible weight for such a narrow, tall stemmed plant.

The Cabbage Moths are out in force but with the use of a little dipel spray now and then I have managed to keep the caterpillars under control. The peas on the deck and in the garden are flowering also and some are just starting to set pods, just as the zuchini is starting to set its fruit also.

We will no doubt have an adequate supply of tomatoes this year. Perhaps not the abundance I was aiming for in order to preserve some with recipes from my Christmas present "Nourishing Traditions", but enough for fresh consumption which is still a plus - and to keep the guinea pigs happy!

I have just had the most amazing lunch served up in front of me of tapas and salads and some of the snapper we cooked in a salt crust. So I must go. But I will be back to add more notes because it is a busy time of the year.

The Chooks!

The chooks arrived in town on a little truck crammed with all the other chooks on the tenth of December. I think they were so glad to be away from the noise and clammer of the farm and all the other chickens that they settled into their new home readily and even began laying the following day.

I had set up the yard that so if I were a chook, I'd have liked it when I saw it too. A nice, safe little coop with high roosts. A straw-yard to dig around in with a huge pile of compost chock full of wriggly worms. Some pellets and wheat and some rainwater from the tank.

We average about two eggs a day between three chooks which is just enough to replenish what we use on a regular basis with a couple of days reserve in advance.

They have since made short work of the huge compost pile and after cleaning up a bit today in the straw-yard I was amazed to observe how dramatically they have changed their environment. Just about every green, leafy herb or plant has been . . . . decimated. They have legs on them like emus. After raking the ground over the only plants standing are the gum, the tamarillo ( the mighty, mighty tamarillo) and a clump of exuberant, fancy landscaping grass in a pot which is half dead and has probably been ear-marked as a possible future nest site.

This is good.

The nasturtiums and the potato plants have vanished and the scraps from the kitchen and some from my brothers catering business get churned around and pecked at and made into compost quite easily and quickly.

There is one chook that gets out quite regularly despite our efforts to barricade the gate with pot plants. They are easy enough to catch though and have a peculiar habit of kind of hunkering down and flattening themselves against the ground while doing a little stomping dance. They do this and stay put and are easy enough to just pick up and pop back over the fence. There is very little running about involved - unlike the guinea pigs!

I am very happy with the way the chickens have been going and the fact that they are really quite quiet. Just a noisy episode now and then which I think is usually when a cat is in the yard and sets them off.

They are Isa Brown chooks which I settled upon for their quiet nature, egg laying regularity and compost producing ability. They are therefore a hybrid breed and perhaps one day when I have a larger space I will go in for having a more traditional breed of chook after researching several varieties.

Until then, they have really completed that final missing link in the garden that I have been planning for nearly a year.

Garden Weed Audit

I have decided it could prove an interesting exercise to stop ignoring the weeds in the garden and to allow them to grow and do an audit of those that I can identify.

The first thing I have noticed is that once you allow weeds to grow beyond any stage where you might initially identify them as weeds and pull them out, they quite often change their appearance.

They may grow much larger, the leaf shape may change, they may have quite an interesting flower or other peculiarities compared to the rest of the garden plants.

I have always been amazed at the resilience of weeds and the conditions in which they will grow and often thrive.

So I have created a page to keep a kind of catalogue of the weeds that come up in the garden and the variety has been an eye opener to say the least - not to mention the uses that some of them have.