Sunday, March 29, 2015

Sad Day on the Farm

said goodbye today to two very special ladies.  our breeders pigs.

specifically .... lucy our sow and suzie our gilt.  it was a hard decision.  but it boiled down to two things:  hard financial farming facts and putting family first.

we did the breakdown on numbers for making money vs how much they cost, vs what it would take to make it profitable .... and well, we just aren't up for that.  we'd need a boar, a few more sows and heaps more infrastructure to begin to make the profit margin worthwhile.

family time.  with our cows and chooks we can let them run.  the cows won't go anywhere as long as they have grass and water.  the chooks free range .... 'nuf said.  the piggies?  well, they need twice a day feeds and heaps of tlc to boot.  we couldn't really go anywhere.  late afternoon outings were a no go zone .... let along overnight's away.  our family time has suffered significantly and with kids that are 8, 10 and 12 .... the time and experiences we have with our children is obviously more important (and i am not getting into the you don't have to go away to have family time thing ... we haven't had a holiday since before the pigs and that just ain't right).

so piggies had to go.  the girls have gone together to a great new home about an hour away where they will have acres of grass and fields to relax in and be in pig heaven.  i couldn't have asked for more.  the piglets will go shortly .... they were always meant for the freezer and four have been sold and we'll keep two for our own freezer.

we'll always raise a few for the table.  that's what self sufficiency is all about .... so having them in some form is part of our lives ... but just not so full on to reduce our overheads and give us our family time back.

thanks for the memories girls.  i've been a bit teary this afternoon .... but i'm happy knowing you are going to a great new home.

Suzy .... love you girl.
Lucy .... gonna miss you babe ... you have such a gentle nature!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Growing Garlic

so when you reclaim a veg patch that has been overrun with zucchini it can take a bit of time.  which is ok ... if not a bit of hard work.  never hurt anyone!  it was slow going doing it bit by bit in some bloody hot weather (and muggy too boot!), but with a great family effort, we got more than half way through on the weekend, and after a few tweeks this morning, i am happy to say we are more than half way there.

looking good!

we a deluge of rain yesterday which means that the garlic bed is ready!  i thot it would be interesting to take you step by step through how i have a raised bed covered in newspaper and how in the world could that be for planting garlic.

so the first step is to ensure you have really good soil fertility.  we started this last year when we planted out green manures and let that enrich the soil for a year.

garlic is the second long bed down, early growth of green manure.

garlic doesn't like to compete with, well anything.  in lots of beds you could plant things intermixed for companion planting.  not so with garlic (okay, except Roses ... they do great with roses).  it needs its own space and area without anything else.  grass and weeds are the worst for choking them out and not letting them grow well.  so what do you do to give them the best possible option of not getting over run by competition?  commercial growers will use weed mat, but given that 1) we don't have heaps of money to buy that and 2) we prefer recycling .... well, the choice to use newspaper was easy.

what this mean was a chop and drop from the green manure (you don't need to pull up the roots as they have released nutrients into the soil and done their job and will now rot down nicely.  after that you cover the entire bed with a THIN (2-3 sheets) of newspaper.  this is just the added layer of weed inhibitor that they love.

here you can see where we have started laying the newspaper in thin layers down the bed.
the green stuff on top is the end of the green manure which is covered by the newspaper and
rots down beautiful.

and then you either water in, or like us are blessed with a hard deluge of rain that ensure the newspaper doesn't fly away in the breeze and begins the beautiful garlic blanket of goodness.

and now, the bed is ready.  irrigation pipes in place -- the bricks are temporary just to help straighten out the pipe.

there are of course two more steps.  the first of course is to plant the garlic.  i will be doing 4 cloves across approximately 8 cm apart.  these will go in pressed through the newspaper ... giving them the ability to grow up through the hole that you have made.    the second step is your mulch.  once the bulbs are planted a thin layer of mulch should be added.  i do thin at first to encourage the bulbs to grow up .... once they have sprouted then i put a thick layer of mulch on to ensure that winter blanket is lovely and warm.

you maybe wondering about all the other newspaper.  we love recycling and reusing and are blessed to be friends with a local newsagent who appreciates us taking all their old newspaper rather than them having to get rid of it!  after a gentle toss of the soil in the paths, we lay down heavy (like 1 cm thick) layers of newspaper to make the paths.  this will eventually get covered with saw dust .... but it is one more step towards the diminishing returns on our weeds and errant grass.  the more we suppress them, the less they will grow.  it will be a few years before we are confident that they are eradicated (ah, lets face it .... it will always be a battle).  but to know that all we have to do when we see a patch coming up is to pull it out and cover it with newspaper is well, wonderful!

so my order with greenharvest has been received and includes both glen large and red creole garlic .... at far ends of the spectrum from each other with regards to flavour and heat.  but tomorrow, we head about an hour down the road to a guy who grows russian garlic and will be getting a few kilo's from him.  which is fabulous .... because it's been grown locally and is already adapted to our climate ... so that is a step ahead of the game.

but ... i bet you are wondering just how you plant the stuff.  it's a bulb ... so you break the bulb apart into all the cloves.  don't remove too much of the skin ... just enuf to ensure that each bulb is separate.  and then, toe goes first.  have a look at this clove.  the toe (bottom) is on the left and the head on the right.  you would be very familiar with this from your own cooking i would imagine.  just easy to remember ... toe goes in first!

this is a red creole garlic clove

in my patch, i am simply making holes with a small stick through the nicely wet newspaper that is inhibiting weed growth.  put the toe in and push it down until it is almost all the way want to just see the tip of it.  and then mulch .... mulch light and loose but big and high.  mine is about 25 cm deep .... very loose so the garlic is encouraged to grow up .... but big enuf to keep weeds out and to make a lovely winter blanket to encourage it to grow.

put about 120 cloves in today i reckon.  that was all my Glen Large .... it is a good all rounder here in Australia and grows well in most climates.  i am also going to put in a small quantity of Red Creole ... a spicy variety to test out is viability in this climate.  and then there is the 2 kilo's of Russian or Elephant garlic that will go in later in April.  a big juicy clove garlic that is mild in taste.

happy planting!

Friday, March 6, 2015

Germination for the Patch

got your seeds for winter yet?  have your beds planned?  with the changing of the seasons comes the renewal of our patch .... summer crops are dying off and it's time to plan for winter.  its easy to forget about winter if you aren't careful.   there is this mythical air of not being able to grow fabulous veg like you can in summer.  winter is a time to clear out the beds .... manure, dolomite, and mulch .... letting them rest to spring.

i'm here to tell you that it's not the way things have to be.  root crops a plenty, hardy winter veg that just love a crisp morning and bright sun.  you can get so much out of your winter patch .... with just a little bit of effort!

so here is the plan for our autumn/winter planting.

yeah!!!  but now it's time to plant seeds.  and there is only one way i know how to do it ... it's worked for years now and i wouldn't change it for the world.

empty toilet rolls

yup .... they work a treat.  and here is what you do.  first of all .... just collect them.  whether its a bag in your toilet or asking your friends .... just start collecting.  you can never have too many! it's great .... because when the plants are big enuf to plant out .... you just pop the whole toilet roll in the ground .... the roots are not disturbed and you get biodegradable goodness!

time to assemble the elements!

save all those old trays with produce that you get.
they'll serve you well .... a good soapy hot wash
and dry and they are ready to be used!

cut your toilet rolls in half.
try to keep them straight, but not a huge deal if you don't.
you'll always have a straight edge on one end.

the next part is to fill them with some good compost or seed raising mix.  for some this can be quite hard.  but my trick is to make a very thick mud and pack it in.  i hold the flat edge of the toilet roll in the palm of my hand and pack the mud in nice and tight.  this ensure it won't come out.

assemble your sticks and paddle pops.  i tend to plant one type of thing to a tray, or a row .... so one paddle pop per tray is enuf.  but get your stuff all together and you are ready to plant.

the other trick is to get all the seedling holders full before planting with seeds.  once the mud is in, wash and dry your hands.  nothing more frustrating that having these tiny little seeds stick to your hands!  i also tend to use a pencil or some sort of pointy implement to push the seed in and cover up.

the beauty of these trays, beside the fact that you are reusing something! is that you can water from the base.  it means that you don't run the risk of washing away your seeds when you water them.  if you always water from the base it will drink it up as it needs it.

and before you know it .... your germination nursery is started!

ready to go!
i understand that some folk don't feel like they can do it, or that they don't want to wait.  but honestly .... with a little bit of patience and tlc you can save heaps of money and have a prolific amount of produce!

and the reward?  well within three days of a bit of tlc ... you'll have cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower starting to peek through!  woohoo! happy planting!