Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Sunday Fire

There has been a couple of weeks of burning off over in the valley. Last Sundays fires clearly got out of control and the fire brigade was called in. We went to my parents to catch up and could see the smoke and glow from their house as night fell. We did get rain later in the evening but not a great amount.

Winter Pumpkin

Here is the pumpkin that was self-sown by one of the micro-soaks at the top of the garden. This is about 7 feet up from the ground and probably 9 feet from the roots of the plant. It is nestled very snugly in the native wisteria and the leaves get a lot of sun during the day being up high - so there isn't much leave mold forming yet. I think we'll probably see this one through. Pumpkin in winter! This is probably more to do with the micro-climate than climate change however.

Also worth noting is that the native wisteria further down the garden - the white flowering one - actually had flowers open on it on Sunday. The rest of the vine is yet to break out and I noticed today that the olive-leaf grevillia is forming flowers. Last year it was covered in them and fed the honeyeaters and parrots for several months.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Stuffed Mushroom

My Dad gave me a large field mushroom the other day. I knew exactly what I was going to do with it and looked forward to the time to make it.
Finally after a busy morning in the garden last Sunday I prepared my meal behind closed doors while my nauseated wife rested away from cooking smells which don’t agree with her at the moment. Here is what I did while I let the oven heat up nice and high.
One field mushroom, stalk removed and chopped up.
A bunch of spinach leaves, soaked in hot water, wrung dry and roughly chopped
1 – 2 eggs
Some chopped parsley
Little bit of grated cheese
Salt and pepper
A little of my brothers wonderful chilli jam – but may have otherwise added some cayenne pepper or sweet chilli sauce.
I put the mushroom upside down on a baking tray and mixed up the rest of the ingredients, placing it within the cup of the mushroom. Then I added a chopped rasher of bacon over the top and a couple of pieces of garlic butter than just happened to be in the fridge and a little more cheese and pepper. This all went into the oven for ten minutes on high and then about a half hour at a moderate temp (180oC).
Delicious. And rewarding to be able to make a quick meal using spinach, parsley, and eggs from the garden with my brothers chilli jam. Yum!

Monday, June 13, 2011

June Update

Other happenings in the Garden

The pond-side aquaponics garden is doing well. The strawberry plants are sitting up and looking healthy. The lettuce are looking good too though are a little lopsided due to transplanting them into small pots from a larger pot. Once they come out I will choose something that will benefit from the site a little better as I plan to be growing lettuce in the main system anyway. Today however I noticed there must be another hole in the pond liner as the level is sinking. I have turned the pump off overnight in case the reduced level is somehow connected to the grow bed. It doesn't appear to have leaks anywhere.

There are several medium sized tomato bushes that have come up from summer seeds and are flowering and looking very healthy. I’ll see how they go and may transplant some into the aquaponics system.

The chooks are laying at the moment. Averaging two eggs a day. Probably from Stella and Penny.

The broad beans are up in the northern garden but the Denmark seeds have not yet come up. They should have shown by now considering that the guinea pigs have been out of the garden for a week after convalescing post the Gizmo trauma.

The Madagascar beans are still doing well and I imagine will come to an end soon. I have been saving the seeds from all the pods to place into the Seed bank and to grow a large crop come spring.

I also swapped a pepino cutting for two yellow tamarillo fruit on Saturday, so I can endeavour to grow some yellow ones.

The potato plants in the drum are doing well after a good soaking rain last weekend and I need to add more straw and paper to build them up a bit more. I have taken some soil from the straw-yard and added that too as it is looking really nice now that its had some moisture and three chickens scratching it up. I will probably also add some of this to the garden beds before I plant more fruit trees in.

AP Update

Over the last few days I have been working at my aquaponics project. Fitting the plumbing such as the waste pipes to drain the tanks and fixing the stand pipes together. I initially was going to get fixtures for the waste pipes and t-joints to fix to them so the water could drain out into the fish tank. However, once I had fitted the waste pipes in I realised they stuck out with plenty of room and the bottom and decided it would be easier (and a heap cheaper) to go with my initial plan and simply fix a 90mm pipe to the bottom of them to take the drainage water to the fish tank. So after returning some of the fixtures and buying extra pipes I managed to reduce the cost significantly. I also opted for pea gravel for the grow beds rather than expanded clay. At retail price of $56 for 50litres of clay pellets it would have cost at least $1232 to fill the grow beds. I’ve more than half filled them already with pea gravel for $85 and will probably need another buckets worth to finish the job.

A couple of problems have already arisen.

I filled one bed and trickled water in to test the speed at which it filled and although having copied diagrams for drainage pipes I soon realised that the beds were going to drain much quicker than the presumed water would fill them. So I closed up some of the holes I had drilled and I think it will still be too much and am entertaining the idea of even no holes and simply allowing the water to fill from the base of the pipe and rise with the rest of the water.

If need be I can always then add holes and in retrospect should have instead checked the operating of the drainage before drilling holes to see what happened.

The other thing that occurred was a couple of hours after filling the grow beds with the gravel the bolts holding the wooden beam that kept a corner of the benches up snapped in half under the weight and the bench tilted back against the house. Not very happy with that. I took my brother and Dad out to show them the progress and I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me!

I think I have a solution to the problem but will still probably have to empty some of the beds out to work with the bench a little easier.

Before I filled the beds I wanted to make sure that they were going to fit together well so took the time to cut some of the excess plastic rims off so that they could fit a little closer. I think this was a wise move.

I have ordered a water pump online due to its energy efficiency and its ability to pump the water much higher than required. I am expecting the lessened work load to mean an increase in speed and pressure given the short travel distance which would mean the grow beds fill quicker and more efficiently and drain slower allowing a good soaking of the gravel. I imagine I may have to cut into some of the stand-pipes so that they drain uniformly with the others.

The next challenge – once I’ve fixed the benches again! – will be to fix the piping will carry the filtered water back to the fish tank. Ideally I wish to make its journey quick and simple which will probably involve passing straight through the wooden boards to the tank. Quite a narrow space but the extra pressure built up may be good for aerating the water as it passes back into the tank.

I still need to do something with an overflow for the fish tank as any rainfall collecting in the grow beds will increase the water level of the tank. So as a back-up I will need an overflow, rather than just letting the water spill over the tank. I would rather direct this nutrient water to one of the garden beds.