Saturday, March 30, 2013

Garlic Goodness

not much can beat garlic .... the tasty goodness that comes from adding this tidbit to a roast, stir fry, fried rice or as a fried topping to a dish .... well what can i say?

so i committed that when fall came around, well .... i was going to plant enuf to keep us in garlickey goodness all year long.  and it started with the creation of the alums bed.

we've been using our mini-chook tractor to dig up our long bed dedicated to alums (leeks, garlic and onions).  The edges of these beds had newspaper laid down to inhibit any grass regrowth, and on top of this was lasagna layered goodness of straw and compost.  not to mention of course the yummy goodness added by the chook scratching and manure!

as you can see in this picture, the first set of leeks have been planted out ... gonna have to take the mower around the front end pretty close.  but we can keep the grass in check i think.

the area just beyond that has been stratched up thoroughly and has had newspaper and lasagna layers put down, all in readiness for planting three kinds of garlic.  

the first batch went in today.  this is a local variety (italian) .... i figure i need to try this out because if it grows well for another local, it should grow well for us!  i have also ordered an elephant garlic (mild) and hardneck variety (supposed to be great for sub tropics) from Green Harvest.  so they'll be going in as soon as auspost delivers them.

i wanted to try a variation of a method that i have heard that the guys at Chicken Thistle Farm use (check here to listen to their podcast).  their premise is that far too many early bulbs of garlic are lost because of invasive grasses and weeds and not being able to tell the difference between them.  they prepare the soil, water it thoroughly and then  put down the equivalent of an organic butcher paper that they plant the garlic bulbs through and then cover with mulch.  this apparently does a good job of keeping the weeds out.

but i wanted to try a version that used resources at hand. yeah, okay ... so something that was FREE!

enter stage right:  the humble but ever so useful newspaper!  not a heavy layer .... just a 2-3 sheet thickness, enuf to mimic the idea of the butcher paper. 

after the soil was watered thoroughly, the newspaper was applied and wet down completely.  i liked the look of this .... it was all making sense.

and with the help of my youngest, we got busy planting, i poked the holes in the newspaper and he poked the garlic in (right way up, of course!) .... and at the end of it .... we had planted out over 72 cloves of garlic ... 

so after the cloves were planted they were covered with a light layer of straw that was watered in to make a nice winter bed for these little babies.

i'll repeat this process for the other two  batches ... can't wait .... i reckon we'll have over 250 cloves planted by the time we are done ....

have i mentioned how much we are loving our tree change / sustainable life?

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Market Garden: quantity, timing and variety!

thot it was time for a bit of garden update ....

one of the interesting things about gardening is that there is always room to grow, room to learn and room to adjust and change.  i am having to do all three when it comes to quantities, timing and variety!  and i can tell you ... i am having fun!

i have always been thinking .... if i grow a big quantity, it will go to waste.  how silly! around here, it can never go to waste ... not with hungry chooks and pigs to care for.  let alone giving it away to friends .... you just can't grow too much.  so where i have in the past planted only a few of this or a few of that .... i'm seeding and planting at least a dozen or more!  we'll have winter veg coming out our ears!

with regards to timing.  well, i subscribe to and follow a number of different types of apps that tell you what you should be planting when.  and they are all great.  but the one thing i keep coming across is that when they  say "plant seeds in March" .... chances are i could've started them in February, or even January in the right  conditions.  so we'll start planting things a lot earlier than the norm.  the other thing that we are doing is putting in a greenhouse.  right now we have plants catching varying degrees of sun and shade as they are waiting to be planted out and toting water to them.  not always successful.  having a green house will allow easy management of seedlings and new trees.  and will allow us to start things in winter that can go out much easier for an early spring planting that we couldn't have fathomed before.  

and as far as variety goes ... welll -- the more the better.  sure you grow the staples that you know your family will eat and chow down.  gotta have those.  but there are some great greens and foods out there and even varieties within types that we should be trying. and the advantage is that different types of a particular veg might be fruiting early or late, which will only extend your season.  and what is the worst that could happen?  we don't like it?  ok ... then it can go to the piggies or chooks and we save on feed costs that way.  how cool is that!

so ... here is our first variety foray ... spinach!  four kinds!

from top going clockwise: kang kong (filipino spinach), cavelo nero (just planted out),
malibar climbing spinach (a summer starter), and english spinach (just starting
as this is a winter crop)

and of course here are the other things that are going well in the garden right now ....

okra .... my family hasn't eaten them before...
time to try something new!
eggplant too ... something not that common on our
household,  no time like the present!
it is the season for beans, allums and peas.  so those are in as well.  garlic will go in over the next few weeks.  gonna try something new for planting to see if it will ensure high yields.  first broad bean planting and peas are in as well ... so we just have to wait and watch for those to come up!

things are always happening in our little veg garden .... today i went to our local news agency to get heaps of their left over newspaper as there are chooks to be moved and more beds to be created.  this is a pretty typical sight in our garden right now ....

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Practically Perfect Piggies

they have arrived ... the newest members of the JustEarth work crew!  a belated and ever so treasured birthday present from my better half!  they are Landrace / Berkshire cross.  the kids have named them ... these will be named after characters from the Chronicles of Narnia.  there is one that is a possible breeder gilt .... her name is Lucy.  the other female is Polly and the boy is Reepicheep.

the future is great for these little things as they work with us .... their first job is enjoying the grass and then using those beautiful little snouts as the God made rototillers that they are to create a beautiful foundation for our mini orchard.  they'll be true pastured pork ... and enjoying their lives and then the ultimate and beautiful gift of giving us food for our plate.
the new additions loaded and ready to come to JustEarth.  Lucy is in the
back, Reepicheep is in the middle and Polly is at the front.

Getting used to their new home with a treat of watermelon.

Safety in the corner.

this is a real cuteness shot!

Left: Reepicheep.  Middle:  Lucy.  Right: Polly.

training area to get them used to  electric fencing.

yes, that's me helping Polly into her new home.  she didn't
want to get out of the crate so i did the old "hold 'em by the back
legs so they can't bite you thing."  she was fine and it
is an acknowledged method of how to control them.

pastured pork!

Lucy -- she will probably have a longer life at JustEarth as a
breeder.   great confirmation and a gentle but inquisitive nature.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Strawberry Fields Forever!

shortly after we established our "briar patch" we realized that it would be a significant learning experience for us and we would probably be recreating it because of the poor soil quality.  but that was ok ... it is all a learning process and the work that we've done in the area will only serve to improve it massively .... so it was not wasted or lost time.  so a negative .... but we will turn it into a positive!

that is of course, apart from our one unadulterated success .... the strawberries.

when we were still living in town i was given a whole bunch of strawberry suckers from a friend who herself was being overwhelmed by the "prolificness" of these little beasties.  and i set about nurturing them in styro boxes until i could fulfill my dream ...

my dream:  to have a huge bed of strawberries and asparagus (great companion plants!) that would keep our family in fresh yummy goodness and jams always.  my hope was that this little batch of strawberry suckers i had been gifted with would be the start of that.

strawberries and asparagus ...
all snuggled in!
So very quickly the plants grew and it was time to put them in!  we did a lot of work to ensure that the soil was good .... we are in such heavy clay that growing above ground is really the best thing we can do.

the idea behind this long bed was that it would have a high centre to accommodate the asparagus crowns and that strawberries would grow down each side.  and it worked well ...we were getting the odd strawberry and they were yummy.  even my husband who doesn't like strawberries because of the seeds changed his mind once he tasted one that had been freshly picked. even the first season asparagus was doing really well .... it was great.

BUT .....

life gets hectic ... we moved out to the block, got a few animals and there was (is!) a huge amount of work to do.  and this is wild land .... and if you don't manage it well, you loose control of it very quickly.  we realised quite early on that we would need to rebirth the briar patch .... so we let it go.  the potato's, blueberries, peas ... artichokes ... let nature have her way.  we decided to get piggies to put on the briar patch and really decimate the area and build up the soil quality to start again.  so out came all the blueberries and artichokes (leaving the root crops for the piggies to enjoy).

but i didn't want to let go of my strawberries and asparagus .... truly!  so i wanted to see if they would survive and figured we can fence it off from the piggies.  let's see how my little red beauties survived the onslaught of mother nature for a while and then check it out.

well, today was d-day.  piggies are coming soon and the things that i wanted to save had to be moved.  i wanted to peak at the strawberries and see how they had survived ..... oh .... my .... goodness.

where there is a will there is a way!

i know .... it seems like a mess .... but believe me .... the strawberries are doing so well!  they have thrown out so many suckers that have taken root and are truly holding their own .... the clover that is growing is providing a great grass inhibitor and allowed the strawberries to continue to grow.  and the asparagus has rooted well and thrown up some good fern that will bring on some great asparagus next spring.

i'm soooo happy with this experiment .... yeah, okay ... it will need a fair tidy up, no doubts about that.  but they survived ... no they THRIVED .... and we have our strawberry field .... it is in ... established, and with a bit of TLC it will come up trumps!

now we are on to stage 2!  we will be planting guilds around the fruit trees in our orchard ... and strawberries are a great ground cover.  i need more strawberries!  so what did i do this morning?  gathered suckers of course!

 these were gathered in about 15 minutes this morning .... lots of varying growth on them .... and heaps more that i could pull.  so this is the start of my next generation of strawberries.  and all this started as a gift from a friend .... <g>
my next batch of suckers bedded in to grow and become
strong second generation just earth strawberry plants!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Luscious Leeks

OMG!!!!! where have you been?

i've been to London to see the Queen!

no, seriously.  fingers crossed we are back.  we've been through the wars since i last wrote way back in January .... and i'll bring you up to date on that later.  but with fingers, toes and legs crossed, we have a working modem, OK signal and i reckon there is a good chance that i can start blogging again!  one can only hope!  so rather than boring you with what has happened .... i'll give you today's great achievements and personal back pat!

leeks.  i do love them .... and fall has fallen here which means its time to think about rich, full bodied soups that can only be accomplished using fabulous leeks.

today ... our first leeks went in the ground.  woohoo!

this planting actually celebrates several achievements.

our chooks in the a-frame tractor have been working very hard for us and are making a loverly long dug up section of earth that will be our alums bed.  starting with, of course, leeks.  (coming soon are 100's of garlic and onions too!).  this represents  the first hilling for the leeks.  trick:  to get more of that lovely white flesh and less of the green, keep them hilled up well!

this bed represents true succession planting.  the chooks had already been over this area once and it was planted out with cucumber, corn and beans.  that bed went to seed and the  chickens were put back on it and made even more yummy goodness upon which i have planted my first bed of leeks.

i truly love living up here in the Northern Rivers of NSW.  we live in this unique mix of sub tropical and warm temperate .... which means that as far as growing goes, the world is our oyster!

and don't worry .... the next generation of leeks has already been seeded and is about to go out into the baby bed to grow a bit before going to their final location. these are a few weeks old and really need to be pencil size before going out to grow.

it's good to be back.  coming posts will hail the arrival of piggies, the growing mandala beds, surviving torrential rain because of the kindness of friends .....  watch this space.  as long as the modem access holds up you'll be hearing again from us soon!

blessings and have a fabulous day!