Thursday, December 16, 2010

Garden and Ducks

The garden is finally getting some sun after what feels like weeks of cloudy wet weather. The bean arch has almost connected in the middle! Here are a few shots of my vege patch. Followed by a photo from today of our remaining duckling of the two that have been born so far to the ducks. (versus the ducklings born to the chooks! - read back on entries!)
And the duckling (around 4 days old). The 2nd died yesterday.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

New ducklings

Very exciting news. Our new ducklings have been hatching over the past 24 hours. The first one was discovered when I picked up our black chook off the nest just to get new chook eggs that have been laid (the chooks have been laying on top of her - quite undignified and we need to collect them each day) , quite expecting to see our duck eggs still under her (our fertile duck eggs that were placed under her when she went broody a few weeks back). And instead a small tiny black duckling was sitting there staring at me! Looking under the other chook soon revealed a couple of others including a cute little yellow one. The remaining two were hatched over night, and now we have 3 very clucky chooks, with 5 baby ducklings between them. We have had to put one of the more nasty bully mum chooks in a 'cage' for a couple of days - as she kept kicking one of the other 'mums' off her ducklings. She was even spied pecking at the yellow one. So she's been banished. We now just have quiet little Plum (our Araucana) and Blackie (an Australorp), looking after the brood. Plum has done the full hard yards, being broody for 28 days. Blackie has been broody for about 20 days, and Pearl - the one who has been banished, has only been broody for about 10. So in fact she's still broody and probably it's why she's getting nasty. (although A believe's she's just a plain nasty chook, born like that, will die like that!) We read that putting them in a cage for a couple of days can stop the broodiness. We'll see.

In the meantime, the actual two ducks - who have been broody for about 3 weeks are happily guarding another set of eggs, with Charlie their drake always near by. Those girls are quite happy sharing the one beautiful nest. And with all this rain, it's slowly getting flooded!

The ducklings...


The Ducks....

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Bushwalking

Bushwalking in Spring in the Blue Mountains keeps providing us with little suprises. Last week we spotted an awesome stick insect on a branch, and today we stepped over a Blotched Blue Tongue Lizard, and soon after spied a hoof print - either a wild pig, or wild deer. Neither of which I knew hung out in our local bush. :)


Monday, November 15, 2010

Beans running away!

The runner beans are off and running. It happened overnight - a couple of days of hot weather and it's literally grabbed the string and run up about 30cm in about 30hours. Is that possible? Both sides. (here it is about a month ago when I first built it) I'm very excited to the prospect of having a living arch of beans this summer.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

First signs of Asparagus

Some very exciting news today. I was having a closer look at the first little asparagus I had spied shooting up out of my ferny asparagus plant and realised it was in fact coming up from the actual asparagus roots I had bought and planted about 6 weeks ago. I had planted them as directed spreading the roots out over a small mound dug in the soil and covered up with soil. I wasn't sure if I was suppose to fully cover them with soil - and maybe I was? However looking around at them the other day we were certain they were dead. But today having a quick glance at the garden - ever hopeful - 3 of the four have shot up asparagus! Small tiny thin asparagus, but asparagus still!. So maybe they will eventually take off...they last for 20 years...so I am excited something is growing :) Now just have to wait to see what the ferny stuff does. (another purchase, but completely different from the roots I bought). I'm encouraged, because I am following instructions and just having faith. Being patient and just waiting. It's working!

Here they are...

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Verge Garden - updated

I just thought I would post an updated photo of the verge garden nearly six weeks on from building and planting. (click here to read all the posts about it so far)
Here is a before and after so far...


Sunday, October 31, 2010

Sunday baking

I love Sundays. I've fallen into the habit of doing baking on Sundays more often than not - it seems so old fashioned. But I can see all the reasons that people through time have done baking on Sundays. It's calm. It's festive. Friends pop over. Weekdays can be too busy. I find it relaxing to cook and really enjoy just trying a new recipe to test the duck eggs with! We have so many...too many. The damn ducks! ;) Today I found the best so far. It uses 6 egg yolks and whites separately. That's a half dozen in one go! Coconut Friands with Lime Curd. YUM. YUM. YUM.

And this morning after our morning walk I also constructed a bird feeder. They are eating the duck food anyway, with our cat looking on threateningly I wanted to at least provide them somewhere a little out of reach. I get that feeding the birds can be frowned upon, but we will be using this for when the weather is just too awful for them! The poor baby birds can be heard screeching from the tree tops calling for their supper. Forgive me ! I made it out of a rescued rusted old flu thrown as rubbish in nearby bush and a big old flattish rock we had lying around. It's dug a way into the ground to stabilise it. The inspiration actually came from Chris Clarke's extra-ordinary bushfire house that he built after the tragic bushfires in Victoria last year. His newly built house was burned down 6 days after finishing it. So he started rebuilding a new one and what resulted is amazing. Click here to view pix of Chris Clarke's house..

Anyway - here's my bird feeder.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Mini glasshouse

Today we went for an afternoon drive to Blackheath - just 15mins west across the top of the mountain from Katoomba. Our main purpose was to visit the nursery to buy some plant goodies which we did, however we stopped in a little funny second hand shop just across from the railway tracks on the south side that we quite like visiting. It's very quirky, the guy who runs it had an old gramaphone playing on high rotation the whole time we were there....Some strange woman screeching from beyond the grave...it sounded around 1930s. But outside the shop he had these new little kitsch glasshouses for seedlings which i just couldn't pass up! It's exactly what I've been looking for but didn't know. There were three different sizes and I bought the largest. I've been looking for some sort of glasshouse type thing, after discovering the joys of seedling growing and was tempted to buy an old window we saw today at a garage sale. Old windows can be used on an angle propped up in the garden as a kind of halfway idea. But this was perfect and reasonably cheap ($35). So in my seedlings go!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Birthday party food

With A's birthday yesterday we had a special food celebration. Gorgeous fish and fennel pie, followed by Apple Pie (first one I have ever made), followed by chocolate birthday cake. YUM. And speaking of birthday cakes - below is a pic of A's 9 year old's birthday cupcakes, decorated by her and my niece a few weeks ago. Gotta love kids and creativity. These are beautiful.
and the makings of my first apple pie, taken from a very very old Woman's Weekly cook book - you know the ones, before they got all "donna hay" on us!

drowned parrots

We've just come out of the other end of days and days of rain, which brought a few extra birds into our yard looking for food. The poor king parrots around our house were very hungry - even the magpies were coming into the front yard calling for food. We don't normally feed the native birds, but when they are sad and wet, and we can hear the babies calling in the trees...well....enough to say a couple of bird feeders later we had flocks visiting. We know that the previous people in our house use to feed the birds, and 3 years on, every spring they still come visiting. We've also had a migrating flock of long-billed corellas visiting the park opposite. The beak curves all the way down like a long digging shovel which they use to dig up critters out of the earth and their chirp is like a wicked laugh! It's very funny. They're quite rare in the blue mountains - not normally stopping in these parts. We also had a beautiful eastern spinebill fluttering around one of the sedums plants looking for pollen. With all the rain a lot of the pollen tends to be washed away.

One of our family of parrots....you can see how wet this one is...

Through the rain and mist, the eastern spinebill

A visiting long-billed corella...

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Willow arch for beans

Yesterday A's 9yr old and I went down to the community gardens to cut down some noxious Pussy Willow from near the stream there. This is a type of willow which has destructive tendencies along the streams and swamps of The Blue Mountains. However! The long bendy sucklings of the willow make for perfect arch building. I've been planning an arch for my scarlet runner beans to grow up and over, and decided to build one, rather than spend more $. After watching some quick tutorials from the web on square lashing knots I have now built the main structure. :) It's pretty solid - I used garden stakes bashed into the ground as the foundation and then tied to each a willow suckling on each side. Bent them down in the middle and tied that together. I used mainly wire in variations of the square lashing knot because - well...wire is wire. I will soon tie more cross sticks to create a better grid for the beans to climb up. One thing that A has advised however is to watch out for the sucklings taking root! Apparently they just need a bit of water, put them in the ground and watch out! So I will probably take down the arch at the end of the season to avoid this....

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Wheelbarrow from the old ladies at the garage sale

Yesterday in the middle of the snow 'blizzard' we went garage sale hunting. We came across a very non descript brick house with the small sign outside. We went down the drive way and around to behind the house where there were three old ladies sitting in the underneath 'garage'. And there in front of them were about 10 painted old vintage wheelbarrows with various plants in them. The little sign said $15-$20. I couldn't believe it meant for a whole wheelbarrow - I thought perhaps the plants. After a lovely conversation where we learned her husband was tired of wheeling them around everywhere - we parted with $15 and wheeled our new one back up the driveway and on to the ute to take home. The paintings are quite kitsch but we love them, so they are remaining as is! Here it is...[that's charlie our duck in the background) (complete with the succulents that came with it)

Saturday, October 16, 2010

It's Snowing - like a blizzard!

Unbelievable snow falls in katoomba today - yesterday it was 20 degrees...tomorrow more of the same - but today! - It's the heaviest snow fall for a couple of years.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Cicada visit

Our very naughty cat just brought in this beautiful cicada. It's about 2 inches long. It's now back out in the elements....The beautiful gold wings almost looked fake.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Nest boxes for Parrots

We have noticed a Galah couple nesting in the top of nearby sewerage vent pipe thing. Apart from the pooy smell that will waft up during summer, it's also quite dangerous and sadly a sign that there must be few hollows left around our area. So I built a new nest box (specific size for parrots) for the large population of parrots and rosellas we have in our garden. I took the instructions from the Sustainable blue Mountains website. The hardest part was mounting it to the tree - it's about 15-20 feet up and we had to fully extend our ladder and then climb on a branch to manage it. I used wire put through plastic pipe to protect the tree. It's not perfect by any stretch ! I meant to connect it to a spring at one end to really attach it well - but it was too dangerously high for me to get a good grip or hold of anything. If I catch any birds nesting there over the coming year I will be sure to post a pic!
From various for blog
From various for blog

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Pipsqueak pear in flower - and it's beautiful

Our miniature pear plant is in flower - and it's beautiful. I love spring. This pear (aka Pipsqueak Pear) is a really small pear tree about a 1.5 high - but fruits full juicy pears! We can't wait.
From various for blog

Monday, October 4, 2010

Still raining, crushed eggshells around the lettuce!

It's still raining. Flooding in some areas. Stats are stating to appear - like coldest September in 5 years....or coldest first day of October in 20! After only just planting out the rest of my seasons lettuce seedlings 2 days ago, I suddenly thought that the snails too would be coming out with all this rain...so I went down to the vege patch and sprinkled some crushed egg shells (from our own chooks...very sustainable ;) ) around my 'own' seedlings which I have raised since 'birth'!. I don't mind if the snails get the bought ones - but given I started out planting 35 seeds, to get 11 lettuce seedlings to transplant, and of those only 4 remain...(one word - cat).... I'll be damned if I am going to let a slug eat them! - I am keeping close watch.....

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Raining, raining.

It's been raining for 24 hours. Which normally would be good news as we haven't had such heavy rain for weeks...so my garden's getting a great soaking. BUT! I did just plant my carrots and I am pretty sure, after inspecting them, that the seeds have soaked, washed out, uncovered and spread everywhere. :( I will wait for a dry spell (apparently in about a week!) to go out and recover with more soil. Damn!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Nantes Carrots

Well third time lucky. I am trying to grow carrots (again!). This was last years attempt when I tried small round carrots...(click here) The soil around our parts is quite rocky and sandstoney and I have a feeling the previous attempts failed due to the basic reason this root vegetable couldn't grow downwards....! BUT! With plenty of room left in my raised verge vege garden bed I thought I would give them another go. The 'raised' part of the raised garden bed is 40cm - more than enough good soil depth I think for healthy carrots. So I still have some heirloom seeds left of the Nantes Carrot variety and have duely planted three rows. I just used my finger to dig a shallow trench, sprinkled in the seeds, then covered up with seed raising mix. They will need to be thinned out twice, - first when about 5 cm tall, and then again when about 15cm tall (those ones you can eat I think). This is assuming the birds don't get the seedlings. If I get about 20 carrots per row, - about 60 carrots all up - I think that will last our home about 2-3 weeks! (we eat a lot of carrots!). So really an experiment in my determination to get carrots growing here.

A bit of history about the Nantes carrots...The Nantes carrot takes its name from the city on the Atlantic coast of France where the surrounding countryside is ideal for its cultivation. (“It only attains its full quality in a mellow, deep soil…,” wrote Henri Vilmorin in the 1885 edition of his family’s seed catalog.)

Here is the pic of the carrots bed after planting...Will update in about 4 weeks the progress...
Carrots with beetroot in background

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Cloche light

Since my recent obsession with cloches I have been studiously looking around the web for where to buy them. It all started when I was looking for old crab pots to use as light fittings. I then stumbled on the garden cloche and more precisely bamboo ones. I have been looking for them both for the garden and a light fitting! Quite hard to find - even on e-bay. But there I was strolling down our main street in Katoomba and in the window of one of my fave shops - Zuri Homewares..http://www.zurihomewares.com.au/ - an eco designer type shop, was a bamboo cloche. Looking all over the world and there is one right on my back door step! These ones are from a company in Vietnam. It was $36 (AU) - not bad for our new light fitting. If we like it we will get two larger ones for our main living room.
From various for blog

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Cuttings

We have a plant in our garden which is doing really well and is quite beautiful.

I went to an open garden in Katoomba on the weekend (Clover Hill) and showed the owner a pic from i-phone. He identified it as the variegated variety of a plant he has, but which I now can't remember the name. However due to Australian breeders Rights (ABR?) - he is not allowed to sell the variegated variety. So the only thing left for me to do is try and propagate the plant! Never having done this before (none the less being full of confidence from my recent seedling success??!) I have now taken two cuttings from the plant, popped a bit of cutting powder on the end and put it in little pots. The small amount of research I have done online has probably not helped. (shade, not sun is about as much as i know). So I have perched them on my gorgeous green ladder, which now finally has a use beyond fetching the kids balls off the studio roof. My mum has said be patient - up to eight weeks. No doubt it will take me several goes, and actually reading the online help carefully before I get this right - but there's nothing like starting.
From various for blog
From various for blog

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The seeedlings grow and grow

It really is the simplest of things that bring me joy these days! I now have 12 beetroot seedlings and about 8 cucumber seedlings coming up....I'm so excited! I stopped the gentle spraying. I now gently pour water in the soil to keep it REALLY moist. (and of course the egg cartons with trays are working really well...seedlings are just starting to show in those) (click here to see the earlier post when they were just popping out of the soil!).

From various for blog
From various for blog

Monday, September 20, 2010

Ducks

Quick update on our ducks - they now roam around our backyard freely every day. It's so lovely and calming watching them wander around. They stick very close together, when we go out to the back yard they will run up to us, not too close though, expecting bread. Puddleduck (brown one) has started feeding from our hands. Here's a pic...Charlie (big white) and his two wives...bob (white) and puddleduck (brown)
From various for blog

Verge side garden planting

Here we go - the verge side garden planted.....
From various for blog

Seedlings update

I thought I would put a quick update in here of the seedlings I started - (read about them here).

Out of the nearly 30 I sowed, I now have 11 healthy baby seedlings, which I have transplanted now directly into their vegetable bed. I am quite pleased and watching them very closely adapt to their new home.

I have since started some new seedlings and am learning more each time. One seemingly obvious point i have picked up, but really neglected in my first lot - is some advice I found online. One gentleman said that he finds 'watering' the seedlings from below in the tray rather than spraying them from top nearly always works so much better. So I have placed an egg carton inside a shallow metal tray, (you can use the lid of the egg carton, but mine had holes) and filled that with water. I also put a small hole in the bottom of the egg carton sections before putting the soil in so the water could go directly in. The egg carton itself is cardboard and will act as a wick soaking up the water. I then just loosely placed plastic wrap over the top. Already I can see the difference in two days. The soil has not yet dried out, the carton is soaked. Before the soil was drying out in a matter of hours. I am also having some success with my heirloom beetroot and cucumber, each with a new seedling appearing. I am loving this. !

From various for blog
From various for blog

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Verge side Vegetable Garden

I built a verge side raised garden bed this weekend. We have a very wide verge and it gets sun most of the day, so I decided last summer that I would take advantage of that space and plant a raised garden bed there for this season. We needed to take into account a few things, including it's council land. We had a 'dial before you dig' plan but couldn't quite tell where the various pipes etc were so decided to put the bed above ground. We also live just across from a very old quarry site (around 100 years ago!), which has since been turned into a cricket oval, but this has resulted in quite a lot of rock under our earth out the front.

I am inspired by the verge side gardens in Sydney inner city, where the residents have little land to work with so use the verge to grow gardens. We have a lot of land compared to them, but I really like the idea of growing vege's out on community land, for locals to help themselves to if they like. It's my small contribution to sustainable living. We ordered a couple of tonnes of vege soil (mixed with mushroom compost) to fill it in. I will be successive planting beetroot, NZ spinach and silver beet over the next few months.

From various for blog
From various for blog

On another note, while we were working away yesterday, we noticed the dogs agitated with something in our lane way next to the side fence. At some point during the day, our chooks had escaped and we found them enjoying a lovely time in the afternoon sun out and about.
From various for blog

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Springtime #3 begins

Well today I planted the first of the spring crops. It will be our third springtime here in Katoomba and I feel as each season passes I am learning more and more. My new favourite things are garden glass cloches. Not that I have any - but instead have used plastic drink bottles cut in half. I can only dream about owning my own vintage French glass cloche.

My garden beds have been prepared over the winter with compost from our bin, along with the odd sprinkle of manure. The soil looks great. It's been turned over a few times as well. I am experimenting with starting off my heritage seeds both indoors and in situ in the garden. I have read both work - so am keen to see what suits our soil/ lifestyle! I am also growing some lettuce seedlings indoors. So today I planted
INDOORS - toms, cucumber, beetroot (with lettuce already as seedlings, having been planted a few weeks ago.
OUTDOORS - tomes, lettuce, beans

I still have my corn, silverbeet and spinach to grow.

I have placed my recycled cloches over the areas of each planting (some with two or three seeds).

Will post some photos soon.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Insect Hotel

With snow only days ago, today I am in a T-Shirt. I had planned to begin my spring planting this weekend - but have resolved to start in a couple of weekends time. Just letting everything warm up a bit. I have planted some basic herbs in the herb garden however (this time with herbs we will use!) basil, oregano, parsley, thyme and lemongrass. Our lush herb garden, while bountiful wasn't used much and was pruned during winter to get ready for our 3rd spring here. Looking forward to renewing this area, now we have a better rhythm to the seasons (and to our cooking pleasure!).

But the big news around here today is that with the able assistance of A's 8 year old girl and 10 year old boy we built an Insect Hotel. [ You can view some stunning ones here ] An insect hotel is a place where all types of insects and critters can hang out and hibernate during winter and provide safe haven until emergence in next spring. Things like ladybugs, solitary bees, etc but even frogs if near a pond. (which ours kind of is). The insects will hopefully then ward of unwanted pests around the vege patch and help pollinate our plants (and fruit trees). You build it with a steady foundation, then adding recycled materials like old pipes, logs with different sized drill holes, straw and hay, things where things can hide basically! The only thing left to do for this one is to add some succulent plants to add some living matter.

Here it is!
From various for blog

Thursday, August 26, 2010

It snowed today....

It's so cold in Katoomba today it briefly snowed! With wind chill factor the Katoomba weather station is reading sub zero temperatures. Somehow I don't think I will be starting my Spring planting this weekend. Maybe next!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Banana Bread (take 2!)

With more overripe bananas lurking on our kitchen bench I dived in for my second attempt at Banana bread in as many weeks. Again using duck eggs this time I used a different recipe than previously - this one being far yummier than last weeks. The recipe is below (i think it has been adapted from the 'Joy of Cooking'). I baked in a loaf tin and did as the recipe suggested and placed sliced bananas on top.
Here is the result - (half eaten!)
From various for blog



BANANA BREAD 
Adapted from Joy of Cooking

INGREDIENTS:
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated white sugar
1 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
3 ripe large bananas, mashed well (about 1-1/2 cups)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Garnish: (Optional)
A few slices of banana

METHOD:

  1. Preheat oven to around 180c (350f) . Butter and flour the bottom and sides of a 9 x 5 x 3 inch loaf pan. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  3. In a medium-sized bowl combine the mashed bananas, eggs, melted butter, and vanilla.
  4. With a rubber spatula, lightly fold the wet ingredients (banana mixture) into the dry ingredients just until combined and the batter is thick and chunky. (The important thing is not to over mix the batter. You do not want it smooth. Over mixing the batter will yield tough, rubbery bread.)
  5. Scrape batter into prepared pan and place the slices of banana on top of the batter for garnish.
  6. Bake until bread is golden brown and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 60 minutes. Place on a wire rack to cool and then remove the bread from the pan. Serve warm or at room temperature.

    Makes 1 – 9 x 5 x 3 inch loaf of banana bread / banana cake.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Lost Seed - my spring seeds have arrived

My first lot of spring seeds have arrived. I ordered them from The Lost Seed (www.thelostseed.com.au) which specialise in old heirloom and heritage varieties of seeds and seedlings. To start with:
CUCUMBER - BOSTON PICKLING - dates back to 1880
CORN - GOLDEN BANTAM - dates back to 1898 - American
TOMATO BUSH - NAPOLI PASTE - Italian heirloom
TOMATO BUSH - CHERRY MIX - mix of cherry type toms. (Cherry toms grow much better in The Blue Mountains.
BEETROOT - CHIOGGIA - Italian heirloom dates prior to 1840
BEAN RUNNER - SCARLET EMPEROR - Heiroom dating back to 1633.(in UK_) - and introduced into America in 1800s - and used by the native americans. Have a look at this beautiful old illustration of the scarlet emperor
From various for blog

This time last year (this weekend) I planted my spring crop. I will try and do the same this year - I will also be planting my corn (and more of it) a lot earlier than last year probably late September. Although it's not high yielding - it's just so wonderful picking fresh corn!