Saturday, December 29, 2012

We have gone Crazy this Year!

Crazy at planting vegetables that is!  We organise and plant our food gardens to ensure we have a steady supply of produce all year. However spring is always our main event, with many plants supplying food for us in summer, autumn, through winter and into the following spring.

Ortzi planting beans

This spring we have had a mad compulsion to plant even more than normal. We couldn’t have done this by ourselves. During 2012 we have been hosts to many enthusiastic and energetic helpers (such as Ortzi above) and this has inspired us to “stretch our horizons”.  With the help of these wonderful visitors, we planted most of the main garden beds, then we cleared out any underutilised smaller areas and filled them with veggies too. To top it all off, we also established six small vegetable beds in spaces in the orchard.
Cucumber, lettuce and basil in one corner of the hothouse
Part of our compulsion to plant, is because of the future results that we can see projected in our imagination. When we plant a bed of sunflower seed, we don’t see 30 seeds or 30 little green plants- we see a forest of 30 tall plants covered in huge yellow smiley sunflowers. And so it is with every crop – we can actually see the future (in our minds) and that is one of the main driving forces behind our compulsion.
So what have we planted this year?
·       Tomatoes.  6 varieties and over 50 plants. Heather grew plenty of healthy seedlings and we tried our best to find “homes’ for as many as we could.
·       Corn. Two beds planted a month apart to give successive crops, with a total of around 80 plants (or 160 cobs if all goes well).
·       Climbing beans 3 plantings to give a continuous harvest over a longer period of time
·       Capsicum   -- 14 plants
·       Carrots two large beds to supply us right into next spring
·       Parsnip one large bed
·       Beetroot one bed
·       Celery one large bed to allow side picking of stalks all next year
·       Continuous plantings of salad greens (too many to count) including varieties of several varieties of lettuce, raddichio and rocket
·       Cucumbers 2 varieties spread around 4 areas with plenty of space for them to climb
·       Zucchini. 6 plants with 2 different varieties
·       Silverbeet and perennial spinach – too many to count
·       Pumpkins 5 varieties in 8 separate small beds A few plants of each to give us plenty of variety. We still have 3 pumpkins from last year and had one of these for Christmas lunch
·       Herbs such as parsley, basil and many perennial ones

Spinnach,basil, lettuce & much more
And with all that, we still have a couple of garden beds left over. These will provide room to start planting winter crops such as brassicas in summer. These beds currently have other crops that are about to be harvested (two beds of garlic and one large bed of broadbeans).
Of course it would be a big mistake to “count our chickens before they hatch”. There are so many variables, that no matter how hard we try to make our imagined crops turn into reality, we know that there is a possibility that the results won’t be as perfect as in our dreams. Over the years, there have been a variety of reasons for harvests being less than what we hoped eg rodents eating corn, heat and drought stressing plants, birds digging up seedlings etc. We know that this is part of the journey, but it doesn’t stop us dreaming of bumper harvests!
So what do we do with the produce when we have excess, which we certainly hope will be the case this year. Our family, friends and helpers will get a good share and then we sell any excess after that at Healesville Organic Farmers Market in Coronation Park every Saturday morning. Perhaps we will see you there and you can share some of our harvest too!

Our market stall

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Eating our Green manure Crop!

Each year we aim to plant at least one of our vegetable areas with a green manure crop. However, we often find that other tasks are more demanding and we don’t always get a crop in the ground. This year though, we excelled in the green manure department and actually planted three beds; two with barley and one with broad beans.
Heather hoeing in the barley
All three crops germinated well and the plan was to cut the crops down when they were still quite young and let all the organic material decompose; effectively becoming a green fertiliser for the next crop. We cut the two beds of barley back as planned, forked it in with a good sprinkling of blood and bone and left it for 4-5 weeks to allow the decomposition process to work. This apparently adds phosphate to the soil and encourages a rich life force of microbial activity . Compost was added on top, then we planted two beds of tomatoes that Heather grew from seed. The beds were well mulched. So far the plants look stronger and more vibrant than previous crops, so our hopes are for a bumper crop. We will have to do an update when they are ready to harvest.

However with the broad beans, things did not proceed as originally planned. When we saw how beautiful the plants looked, we couldn’t bring ourselves to cut them down. We love eating broad beans and our taste buds convinced us to let them grow to maturity.
The broad bean crop
We were not disappointed; we have been having feasts of broad beans for weeks now, and still the beans keep coming. We have sold quite a lot at our market stall but as they ripen when the weather warms up people tend to eat less cooked food and more salads. So we have had an excess which has stimulated a bit of cooking creativity. Our favourite recipes are Broad Bean Dip (Moroccan dip) and Broad Beans with tomato, onion and basil sauce on gnocchi. The newest recipe Heather has come up with is ....steamed broad beans, cooled, then tossed with olive oil and lemon juice.....great with salads. Having eaten many kilos of broad beans we have turned into “human beans”.
The growing pods
We have competitions to see who can prong the most steamed broad beans on their fork, who can pod 1kg of broad beans in the shortest time, who can balance the greatest number of broad beans seeds on on top of the other on a solid flat surface, who can make a single broad bean spin for longer than 3 seconds.
Delicious Broad Bean Dip

We looked forward so much to tasting and eating the first broad beans of the season. Now we are really grateful that this wonderful bean is seasonal in our climate, and it will soon be replaced in our diet by the delicious climbing green bean......Can’t wait...Yum!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Sarah from Germany

Sarah is our first Helpx helper from Germany. She is on a short working holiday in Australia and stayed with us for the past couple of weeks.

Some of the jobs she helped with included weeding many areas of the garden (we have renamed Sarah - Wonder Woman Weeder), helped with our market stall, collected firewood, planted our beetroot crop (and it looks like all the seeds germinated), harvested berries, helped with composting, helped clear around one km of tracks that had become overgrown after the 2009 bushfires, helped out with most of the daily chores and more. She was such a great worker and always asking if she could help.

Of course she was very keen to meet the local native animals, and had a close up encounter with an echidna. Whilst here, she also saw mobs of kangaroos and many of our colourful parrots and other birds.

There was some wildlife that Sarah was not particularly fond of –spiders. We do occasionally come across these beautiful creatures but she would rather they kept their distance. We think she may not be quite as afraid now- in fact she may want to keep one as a pet!

The stay was not all work of course. We enjoyed each other’s company and spent much time sharing stories and laughing together. Ruby the dog thought she was wonderful because Sarah took her for walks around our tracks and spoiled her with loving pats and cuddles.

She has now left our place and managed to find paid work on a local berry farm to help fund the rest of her adventures in Australia and New Zealand. Once again we have enjoyed the company of a wonderful person and helper and we hope Sarah enjoys the rest of her trip around Australia.
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