An ounce of sustainablity is worth a pound of prevention…

Hi All,

It’s almost Wednesday again and I find myself scrabbling for time to post. I must admit, most of my free time is currently being monopolised by the Wii game Zelda Skyward Sword. It’s been a fair while since I found a game like this that I can actually play! Technology and gaming seem to have decided to bypass my motor neurons in every stage of game development increasing flipping between screens, weapons, items etc. and decreasing the amount of time spent hunting for bright shiny things which, if I am pressed, is pretty much the only reason that I like to play games. I get tired of them very easily and would rather spend time reading than gaming. In saying that I haven’t finished “Tuesdays with Morrie” yet, or “Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café” which I took out on a whim. Reading is such a romantic retreat from real life that I love to take every opportunity that I can to explore my imagination. With the cold weather around here it is very tempting to put everything on hold and call an immediate hiatus to all things “gardening” and “outdoors” but ironically this is the best time to garden. Steve and I have a few days of fine weather this week with no studies that we have to do and so we have set aside the next few days to plant out all of my beautiful cold climate shrubs so that they will survive the summer with less water and so that they will be able to stretch out their roots and be “real plants” in the soil. No more potting mix (and subsequently, no more annual potting up…) and I have started tuning my radar to isolating cutting material, plants and seeds for our Edible food forest.

“GET OFF THOSE!”…damned rabbits are EVERYWHERE…

The reminder of roosters past…lest we forget

After a year off from propagation I can feel my horticultural bones starting to emerge from their enforced sleep and shaking me gently to remind me that penniless hippies NEED to produce most of their own plants and so I took advantage of some of my time in town to prune back the large Muscat (Vitus Vinifera ‘Poloske Muscat’) grape vine that we planted when we first moved to Tasmania and lived in town. It has done its level best to take over the fence between our place and Margaret’s home next door. I removed the honeysuckle and jasmine from the fence as they are invasive garden destroyers here and had started taking over not only the small side garden but the jasmine had migrated, via runners, across a length of concrete to another garden further on. There is no stopping jasmine! I decided that since I was pruning the grape vine to facilitate us digging it up soon and bringing it back to Serendipity Farm, that I would take some cuttings from the canes and not waste this chance to grow more Muscat grapes. While we were attending Polytechnic on a daily basis in Launceston, we learned as much as we could from anyone who would talk to us about all things horticulture and we spread ourselves around with learning as much as we could about all forms of propagation. We used to talk to the head of the viticulture department as wine is one of the major exports of Tasmania (especially Pinot) and after each course, the students would prune the small vineyard and Mark would use the pruning’s to teach the next group of students how to grow grapes from canes. He gave us some good pinot grape canes and some American table grape canes (not sure which variety) that we got going in our garden. I gave the table grapes away at the time but kept the pinot and we still have a pinot grape vine struggling along in the front garden. He taught us how to take the cuttings, how many nodes to look for, how to cut the top of the cane at an angle and leave the bottom straight so that once the canes have overwintered, had formed callous and were ready to plant out that it would be easy to identify top from bottom. With all of this acquired knowledge I took 30 cane cuttings from the material that I had to work with and stored them in damp newspaper till I could get them into some damp sand to overwinter. Hopefully we get some callous (precursor to root formation) starting and I can plant a selection of Muscat grapes along the fenceline between the church and the veggie garden giving everyone the best of both worlds. At a later date Steve and I are going to plant out a few rows of various grape vines in the top area of the property. It gets full sun and has been cleared of trees by past owners and is on a steep slope so it is perfect for growing a few grapes with the eventuality of us being able to make our own wine.

So you want to grow some grapes from canes eh?

First source some canes…Grape preferably…

Find a recepticle to contain the canes (we used a large plant pot…) make sure it has holes in the bottom and you have a compliant and willing (compliant is more important that willing in this case…) helper to hold the canes while you pour in the sand…

Did I mention the coarse river sand? No? Well perhaps I should have…you need some at this point…

Pour enough sand from your bucket into the recepticle holding the canes so that they are well covered

Shake your pot a bit to settle the sand, water them in well and set to one side with the rest of your potted plants out in the open until you feel like checking to see if any of the canes have produced callous. If you want to know more you can sign up for one of the short wine courses at your local TAFE/Polytechnic…you just exhausted my experience in growing grapes.

That brings me back to my slowly awakening desire to propagate again. My tip find strawberries are behaving like ferals and are going crazy in the shed. I potted them up expecting a large rate of attrition thanks to their languishing in the tip for goodness only knows how long and then spending a frozen night in our trailer and another 2 days lying neglected on the floor of the shed. Nothing kills them! When you take something that has been neglected and show it a bit of tender loving care it rewards you exponentially and my tip strawberries are no exception. Even the teeny tiny little “buddling’s” are greening up and taking off. We have a steep rock wall around the side of Steve’s shed that was previously covered with weeds and African daisies (Osteospermum) that we pulled out and discovered the precarious nature of this area whilst at the same time working out where the cut and fill was taken for the house plot. Our soil is a sad mix of reactive clay laying on bedrock of volcanic stone and covered with silty shallow topsoil due to our proximity to the river. We can ameliorate the soil and make it a whole lot better, but silt has the next finest particles to clay soil (that’s what causes it to be so densely packed) and tends to wash away at the first sign of water and strangely become very hydrophobic (water runs off the top of it) when it becomes dry…which it does VERY easily and so you can see that combining this sort of topsoil with a steep slope is going to lead to problems with soil migration. We were going to plant alpine species in between the rocks to hold the soil in place but Edelweiss (Leontopodium alpinum) is considerably harder to source here in Tasmania than strawberries from the tip and segue right back to the strawberries. They are extremely hardy…they love full sun…they produce runners and make their own new plants (the lazy food gardeners heaven) and the produce an edible crop and love to grow in crevices. The ducks think twice before heading down steep slopes and so the strawberries should require only minimal protection but we will ensure that they are covered with some mulch and protected from possums until we have enough strawberries to form a dense mat. I love finding edible free solutions to our gardening problems that arrive at a win-win situation for both us and the wildlife around here.

One of the pots of strawberries that show no sign of shuffling off this mortal coil any day soon

The sign posted between the Exeter Thrift/Op shop and the golf course next door…I guess it’s one way to stop people wandering onto the greens!

A mans dog needs a mans drink! (Any representitives of the Guinness corporation reading this post can feel free to contact me about sponsorship money 😉 )

I spent Monday checking out the height and width parameters for my cold climate shrubby babies that have been living in pots for about 3 years now. When we first got bitten bad by the horticultural bug we went on a mad propagation and collection run that encompassed all kinds of plants. I started out with cacti and succulents that the ducks recently took great glee in eating almost to extinction and branched to other exotics (living in the glasshouse) and finally settled on cold climate shrubs before moving to Serendipity Farm and getting serious. Having both Steve and I fall victim to horticulture meant that there was no-one to put the brakes on when it came to propagation and collecting and we spent a lot of time and initially money on increasing our potted plants to the vicinity of 900 (300+ conifers alone) and whilst it was quite easy to keep these babies happy in town, out here on Serendipity Farm it’s a nightmare! We have to fight off the possums, wallabies, rabbits and anything else that feels like a snack (including Earl) whilst trying to minimise our potable water usage and our precious babies have slowly been falling by the wayside as the real world interjects itself and teaches us some life lessons. No more precious babies that can’t take a period of water stress…no more cossetting plants and no more wasting water on them. If our potted plants can’t take the lean times then they can’t live on Serendipity Farm. We have been giving away plants to our city dwelling friends to save them from the possums and everything that is left in our collection is hardy, water wise and able to survive out there in the garden because it’s been sitting there and surviving all of the unprotected night time raids for over a year now so we can be confident that it should survive planting out in the garden.

Some of my thrift shop bargains sourced in Exeter

My $3 glow in the dark strip designed to stop cars from squishing me in the dark…now I just need to source something that will get me out of bed and actually “walking” in the dark…

“Bargain…”

An attempt to justify paying $3 for something that I know I am most probably (still not giving up on it…) never going to wear

This hand made non tip pottery mug was my idea of a way to stop the dogs from tipping over Steve’s coffee in the loungeroom…Steve has a London mug that he is choosing to use at the moment in patriotic fervour (that won’t last long…) and so it’s not being used. I wonder if it works?

I sadly also discovered that in our horticultural zeal to isolate and collect many species of conifer, that many of them grow HUGE and that 4 acres isn’t enough to do them justice. We will be (sadly) giving away a fair few of our conifers to ensure that our collection is able to be integrated with our food forest ideals. We have several conifers that yield edible seeds and indeed spruce needles can be used to make a vitamin C rich tea (no scurvy for us!) and there is room on Serendipity Farm for our Bunya nut (Araucaria bidwillii) trees that we grew from seed collected in Carlton Garden’s in Melbourne where we attended our very first International Garden Show. Most of our other conifers are water sucking atmospheric generators that future generations (you know who you are…) will stand at the bottom of looking up into the stratosphere wondering at the mind that thought it possible to plant Giant Sequoia’s at the entrance of their property when said Sequoia has now taken over the entire driveway and is threatening to uproot the house. The reason why people (who shall remain anonymous as is their constitutional right according to the law…) would want to plant a Giant Sequoia next to the entrance of the driveway is because said anonymous person grew that Giant Sequoia from a teeny little seed. That teeny little seed was the ONLY BLOODY SEED out of the entire packet of “Bonsai Mix” that grew and by HECK it is going to be planted next to the gate so help me them!  We shall speak no more about the subject…I said NO MORE!

Sequoia gigantea grown from seed in his first horticultural certificate course and soon to be planted with pride and joy at the front gate…take note Stewart…we are putting a caveat on this tree so you have bollocks all chance of removing it! 😉

I cleaned out the freezers on Monday because I like to torture myself. There was no room left in either of them and “stuff” needed to be frozen so I was forced into it. The main problem was that since we had killed and subsequently gotten the most out of 11 roosters over the last 3 months or so there was an inordinate percentage of freezer space being taken up by chicken stock. I have discovered, since waxing lyrical about the benefits of chicken stock, that we tend not to use it much. This has resulted in a glut of chicken stock in every orifice of the house that is somewhat cooler than room temperature and it was breeding exponentially. Having completed with a “PASS” certificates 2 and 3 in commercial cookery I am MORE than aware of the dangers of chicken stock when not kept at a specific temperature over extended periods and after adding up the dangers and needing more than my 2 hands and both my feet to count them I decided that desperate times called for desperate measures…something had to be done about that chicken stock! At this point of time the super hero usually appears and “BIFF KAPOW’s” something and everything is sorted out and Gotham City is saved. The superhero wasn’t available on Monday for some reason so a tired addled sleep deprived Zelda addict had to work out a solution all by herself…not a pretty sight especially on a Monday morning. I came up with a brilliant solution if I say so myself. First you analyse the problem…”no space thanks to tonnes of chicken stock”. Next you remember that your life mantra is “Think smarter NOT harder” (that’s the one that I share with the public…my REAL life mantra is “Shit! Maybe no-one will notice?” but that is another story…) and so I slowly formulated an excellent plan. I had only recently been reading my rss feed reader. Yes, I am THAT clever 😉 and realised that the solution was right in front of my eyes…

http://www.101cookbooks.com/archives/homemade-bouillon-recipe.html

No…I am sorry. I have spoon fed you enough! If you actually want to see what it was that I did, you are just about going to have to go to that website and take a look you lazy bollocks!…I will wait here while you do… (Insert elevator music and wonder if they play “The girl from Ipanema” in Korean elevators…)…ok so I KNOW that you didn’t go there…look maybe this will help…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UJkxFhFRFDA

Can ANYONE tell me why elevators chose to use this song?!!! Just watching Astrud makes my eyelids start to droop! I guess it was last century and who can guess at what olden day’s people were thinking about when they wrote music like that…

Ok I made concentrated stock! Easy peasy. I turned a kitchen sink overflowing with bags of stock into an eighth of a stockpot of gelatinised rubber that the dogs will do tricks for. I am going to bounce it all off the deck down to the waiting chickens and feral cats and see if I can’t skim some down to the Tamar River. Again…we shall speak no more of this!

I found this website online and you can get this fantastic catalogue on recycled paper sent to you once a year. I doubt I could source the seeds through this guide but its full of hints, tips and other fantastic “stuff” to help people who want to live sustainably and thats us!

What I am reading at the moment…(I LOVE you library!)

The latest copy of Feast magazine (FAR better than Delicious magazine you ABC snobs and MUCH more interesting) accompanied by my bucket cup  of tea that enhances my reading pleasure (durex for the mind)…by the way dearest daughter Bethany…if you are reading this post, I really REALLY would like you to renew my subscription for my birthday for another year 🙂

Ok we are getting close to me having to wind up this post and I haven’t told you everything that happened since Saturday. Here is a quick rundown…

  1. Fatty ate one of Effels babies and is skating on thin ice even though it was a rooster (it’s the principal of the thing!)
  2. We went to Exeter and I got bargains from the thrift shop that I will share pictorially and kill 2 birds with one stone
  3. Steve is very tired of his shed being liberally coated in nitrogenous chickeny deposits and is about to integrate Pingu into the main herd post haste…
  4. I can’t bring myself to clear out any of my hard sourced blogs from my rss feed reader even though I can’t hope to read all of the posts that I get a day in a 24 hour period let alone fit anything else into my day. Sorry to anyone that I usually comment on regularly… you now know just what it takes to get me to shut up…DON’T tell Steve!

There you go. A couple of manic days in the life of “Us”. I hope you liked it…I can honestly say that it’s kind of too bad if you didn’t…it’s in the public domain now and I guess you are stuck with it. My daughters “Madeline and Bethany” now have to read this post because their names have been mentioned and my son is having a ball dressing up as an ancient Sumerian Godlike creature and getting in the Roswell times whilst wearing a pair of “Butterfinger” underpants given to him by the purveyors of this diabetes inducingly sweet American treat. I am totally engaged by Stewart’s American holiday and it certainly appears that he has been packing it to the rafters with non-stop memory inducing episodes. He does appear to have inherited his grandmothers ability to take photographs of nondescript road scenes and blurry road signs (they say that it skips a generation…) but his whirlwind tour of the USA is just about over and he is heading across the Atlantic ocean and then a hop-step-and a jump across the Irish sea to Ireland (Not much of a quiz question that one is it?). I hope he has an amazing time and his memories are burned into his mind so that he never forgets. Ok, so photos might be a good alternative…I was being metaphorical there! (Sheesh you guys are a tough audience!). You got off lightly today because I now have to go and tackle that behemoth also known as “RSS Feed Reader”. I am going to have to tear out my ongoing desire to hoard each and every blog that touches a nerve and keep a core group of blogs that feed my soul. Please don’t take offence if you never hear from me again. I didn’t dump your blog…I just couldn’t find a way to separate myself from ANY of my 729 (and growing every day) blogs that I am currently following and decided that hoarding blogs is NOTHING like hoarding rubbish or cats. See you Saturday when I might just have collected enough colourful gems to save Spain, Greece AND Ireland (I owe it to Stewart and Kelsey) in Zelda. Whatever you choose to do in the meantime…do it well people and don’t skip bits…you only get to pass this way once…you may as well enjoy the ride :o)

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10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Kym
    Jul 04, 2012 @ 19:35:21

    Well done with the chicken stock problem. It was a clever solution! We have a bug in our computer so I am typing on a laptop. It’s a bit harder, so I just might have some spelling mistakes lol. We have had some beautiful weather here and I’m hoping we still do next week as I will be on holidays and need to attack the garden. Those weeds are growing crazy. I have been collecting egg shells to help keep the snails at bay too. I have been full of a nasty cold, so I’m looking forward to it being gone and feeling well again. Good luck with all your planting, you will be doing it in your sleep! I haven’t got into those games but good luck with your shiny bling things 🙂

    Reply

    • narf77
      Jul 04, 2012 @ 20:52:45

      Zelda is the ONLY game that I can play and only specific “Zelda’s”. This latest one is exactly like the very first one except tarted up for today’s youth so I feel somewhat familiar with it and just gave it up for the night as I am tired of being blown up by cartoon characters…sigh…I am going to mess about reading my rss feed readers (no-one to blow me up THERE 😉 )I hope that you feel better soon. Nothing like a bad cold to make you feel abjectly horrible. We planted heaps out and we are totally knackered. I can see myself going to bed before I read my rss feed reader to be honest lol. Nighty night and have a fantastic holiday 🙂

      Reply

  2. christiok
    Jul 05, 2012 @ 01:02:58

    Another LOL blog, thank you Fran. I love the damned rabbit, Astrud, and Steve is so hirsute!! I’m thrilled that Stewart is having, has had, fun in the USA. Kelsey must lend the tripping a certain lovely energy since Texas in July isn’t, I’m sorry to say, all that much fun. My son Austin likes Zelda, too. I have never played a video game. Keith and I like to play cards…a rummy game called “Shanghai” that we have modified and modified until it is almost unintelligible to observers….you must kiss every joker, you must warn the other player when you just need one more card to win, and to win you must go “all the way”, none of this complicated playing on the others’ cards. Unfortunately, though, there are no gems involved.:)

    Reply

    • narf77
      Jul 05, 2012 @ 07:01:35

      No gems? sigh…I am a quintessential magpie remember Christi and shiny things are my ultimate goal…useful information being the gold of all shiny things :). Glad you liked the post and your son is indeed a savvy gamer to be playing Zelda (ask him how you finish the last one as I am SICK TO DEATH of riding about on that bloody horse lol). Steve is hirsuite because it is winter. His “beard” (or face ferret as is it’s alternative name) tends to gravitate lower to the ground as the temperature decreases. The photos that we have seen of Texas in June have been somewhat underwhelming to be honest but I don’t think it was “Texas” that he was going to see ;). He and Kelsey are heading off to Ireland today/tomorrow (not too sure which) and THAT should give some amazing photo opportunities. It’s so cold today I am wondering if I might just work from bed? Surely it’s entirely possible to head out into the garden and plant out peripheral plantings in my mind? I just have to translocate my hands (in fingerless gloves of course…) and need to find a way to make them do my bidding! (Either that or find a way to make Steve do my bidding…each idea has it’s own merits and its own drawbacks lol). Have a lovely day and hopefully it’s not too hot in your neck of the woods yet. I read a post by someone living up near your state and their air conditioner had broken down leading to grumpy behaviour and midnight meals because it was too hot to even contemplate cooking at the normal time. It’s hard to believe that ANYWHERE has warm, let alone hot weather when you are living in the cold 🙂

      Reply

  3. Pinky
    Jul 05, 2012 @ 08:57:09

    Ah I received that catalogue you showed in your post Fronkii the other day. Mum must have subscribed to it and they sent it to her which in turn got forwarded on to me. It is very interesting too.

    Reply

    • narf77
      Jul 05, 2012 @ 11:35:27

      Like us, good luck with trying to get any of those seeds into W.A. but it doesn’t matter, there is HEAPS more than seed material in there and it is, indeed, very interesting :). It’s funny how mum is still reaching out and touching our lives still isn’t it? Maybe she is telling you something lol 😉

      Reply

  4. Pinky
    Jul 06, 2012 @ 19:29:03

    Probably that I need a good “tonic” hahahahaha. Well, I took her up on that except I have a bit of gin with my good tonic water nowadays!

    Reply

    • narf77
      Jul 07, 2012 @ 09:06:28

      Yes…a good tonic…and a bit of a gargle with salt water Pinkus…I dare say you could gargel the gin and tonic and do it all at once should you see fit lol 😉

      Reply

  5. Stephanie
    Jul 07, 2012 @ 04:40:51

    I love love love the wishbone picture!!!! 🙂

    Reply

    • narf77
      Jul 07, 2012 @ 09:05:32

      A kind of juxtaposition between the “Idyllic” country living picture that most people have in their minds and the actuality of “Real” life…sometimes you have to do things that you don’t really want to do but nature and humanity are all about balance and this sort of summed it all up with me…OR it’s just a nice picture of a nice blue flower pot that I brought back from my mums place when she died earlier this year to remember her whenever I do the dishes filled with jam spoons from an upmarket French jam producer and a few rooster memories 🙂 Mum loved it here and her parents had a poultry farm when she was a girl so its kind of fitting. Cheers for reading the post and liking this picture 🙂

      Reply

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