Morning meander...

21 July, 2013

Here's a quick update on what's happening in my garden in winter. It is a gorgeous morning of wintery sunshine here in Melbourne, and given yesterday and much of last week consisted of dreary grey rainy days the morning sun was an absolute delight.

Bunching onions coming along

Regular seed onions coming up - I'll thin them when they get to spring onion size

Violets coming up - maybe I should make more sugared violets...

So many lemons. Mmmmm, lemon curd...

Something is eating the lettuce and celeriac. Rabbits maybe?

Bluebells coming up. Not edible, but pretty.

Many, many beetroots.

No more brocolli heads left, only side shoots.

These will need to be harvested soon. I will need cabbage recipes. Suggestions, anyone?

A tiny cauli. Maybe enough for cauliflower soup for one.

Potato plants self sprouting. Let's hope these are more productive than last years' volunteer potatoes.

Parsnips almost at picking stage.

Peas starting to flower, but needing some training.

Popcorn looking ready to pull down and harvest the cobs.

This one is a blue variety. I have no idea what the popped corn will look like. Stay tuned.

What's this? Self sown onions in the corn bed.

Scorzonera (planted in spring last year) is developing well.

Digging a little more deeply, the root looks about 1cm thick. Will leave it for a bit longer to get bigger.

And lastly, a late sown tomato plant is still holding in there.

And its starting to flower! I'm not confident I'll get toms, but what the heck.

Fort Ducks...

16 July, 2013

Over the weekend I finally completed the fox proofing of the duck enclosure.

And in the grand tradition of pun names (I just love Cluckingham Palace - thanks for the laughs Gavin!) I am calling mine Fort Ducks!

Hahahahaha. I am so funny... anyway, moving on.

Earlier in the year when I first got my ducks the pen looked like this:

Now it looks like this:

And from another angle:

The pen is now fully enclosed with wire. No fox is going to get through that! (touch wood)

The two sides that are the fence and garage wall have the wire firmly attached into the wall and fence with no gaps for even a wiley fox to fit through.

The wire on the two non-wall sides is buried into the ground and covered with bluestones one one side and bricks/rocks on the other. There is no way foxes can bury under that.

Bonus: I've had extra space to plant things that climb, so I have planted two passionfruits (a banana passionfruit and a standard black passionfruit - both non-grafted so I won't have to worry about rootstock shoots coming up all over the place like with my grafted one) as well as putting a row of golden raspberries along the bluestone side. Yay.

The door is also wired, and has two hook closes which are closed by a peg which is also tucked into the wire on the post, making it a tight fit. Even I have some trouble pulling them out, so I think Mr Fox will struggle.

There is also bricks and garden edging under the door to be doubly sure no fox can bury under the door.

 All in all the ducks can feel as safe as I can make them from marauding foxes.

Despite all the new and improved high tech security features, they seem just as happy as when they were a little more exposed.

The win is all for me, as now I don't have to lock them into their house every night. I don't have to stress out thinking that if I'm home late I may come back to a scene of carnage. And best of all, when I go away later in the year the kind people who are going to feed my ducks for me won't need to worry about them either!

Super early sowing...

13 July, 2013

The weather in Melbourne today was terrible. It was miserable and rainy and all the gardening tasks I had planned that required me to be outdoors have had to be postponed.

So I decided to do something else.

I sowed tomato seeds. Super early sowings of tomato seeds.

Well, it is super early for me. I usually sow my early summer crops (toms, corn, peppers/capsicums, eggplants, beans etc) in around August. But last year I read about Liz and her early sowings of tomatoes and I thought that sounded like a great idea to try.

I sowed 28 varieties of tomato seeds, and it will be interesting to see how it goes. From my 49 varieties I chose the following for early sowing:

For those without microscopic vision, they were Lemon Drop, Ned Kelly, (the winner of the 2012 Tomato Trial) Garden Peach, Black Krim, Black Cherry, Siberian, Mortgage Lifter, Isis Candy, Tommy Toe, Big White Pink Stripe, Green Zebra, Rouge De Marmande, Brown Cherry, Champion, Earl of Edgecombe, Gardeners Delight, Golden Girl, Red Luck, Sweetbite, Pink Girl, Mr Ugly, Sun Sugar, Lava, Husky Cherry Gold, Big Beef, Pink Grape, New Yorker and Patio.

I think my favourite tomato name is Mr Ugly. I can't wait to see what that one's like.

About half of these I've grown before but the rest are pure mysteries. I picked them purely based on name so have no idea what I'm going to get. But I think that's half the fun. 

I sowed about five seeds each of the chosen varieties in my preferred method of toilet roll container (the process of which I outlined here so won't repeat myself.)

The reason I picked 28 varieties to sow is that 28 toilet rolls is all that will fit in one of my sowing trays.

After I filled my toilet rolls I realised that I have almost run out of name sticks, so an ad hoc mix will just have to do. Note to self; buy more paddle pop sticks.

The tray now sits on the mantle above the heater, which I'm hoping will provide adequate temps for germination. I will keep you posted on how it goes.

Assuming germination goes well, lots of potting up will be required and as last year I very quickly ran out of windowsill space to put my indoor raised seedlings I think a greenhouse type arrangement will be required.

Does anyone out there in blog-land have any recommendations. I'm thinking one or two of those small portable plastic ones, but would love to hear your experience with these or any other suggestions.

Seed swamped...

09 July, 2013

This cold and dreary Melbourne evening saw me break out my seed boxes and huddle around the only warm part of the house, the heater, while I took account of my sad and excessive collection of seeds.

Yes, my name is Bek and I am a seed-oholic.

This is how I ended up with 49 varieties of tomatoes. Yes, really. 49 varieties!!! You wouldn't think that innocent looking pile of seed packages would harbour so many, but it does.

How about 9 varieties of green and climbing beans alone.

Or 12 varieties of watermelon and 7 of honeydew/rockmelon.

Madness! I'm never going to use this many. I tried giving some away to work colleagues and friends but they've barely made a dent. I can barely fit them all in my seed boxes.

Some have got to go!

Hence I am proposing a seed giveaway bonanza. If anyone would like me to send them some tomato, squash, cucumber, eggplant, capsicum, pepper, bean, pumpkin or melon seeds to get them off my hands (within quarantine restrictions of course!) please email me at rsstie [at] gmail [dot] com and I will send you my variety list so you can take your pick.

Please. Help me.

Duck egg vs. chicken egg - the taste off...

07 July, 2013

Today was the day. An epic battle of taste preferences and subjective assessment of eggy deliciousness. I would finally find out if getting ducks and keeping them for six months, feeding them and housing them, cleaning out their stinky bedding and dirty duck pond water, was worth it.

To have a true comparison I decided to compare one of my free range, fresh duck eggs to one of my grandmothers' free range, fresh chicken eggs.

Both eggs were four days old to make the comparison as fair as possible.

The duck egg (on the left) is clearly a bit more firmly holding together.

The taste off would be my favourite egg dish, eggs florentine. Eggs, fresh bread, spinach and that thing of amazing buttery goodness: hollendaise sauce.

Both eggs were poached until they felt cooked. I go by feel with poached eggs, they should feel a bit soft in the middle, but firm around the edges.

The duck egg (still on the left) took a little less time to cook, but felt much firmer in the white part. This was living up to the reputation of duck eggs as having a firmer white than chicken eggs, and therefore being better for mirangues and sponges (that will be another taste off...)

Put with fresh baguette, spinach from the garden and hollendaise from the thermomix it looked great.

But were the eggs poached well? Had I ruined the taste off with bad cooking???


On tasting the duck egg did have a much firmer white, which I don't think was very pleasant in the poached form, being slightly rubbery. Perhaps another few days will make a better duck egg for poaching. The taste of the white though was comparable to chicken eggs; I discerned no difference. The taste difference was all in the yolks, which was much richer than chicken eggs, but not unpleasantly so. It just tasted different; I wouldn't say better or worse, just different.

So overall, I would call it a tie. Certainly the duck eggs have lived up to the work involved so far. Some further eggs florentine making will need to occur to see if I can get a less tough egg white (it's a cruel world...) but the next test will be either mirangues or sponge.

But before I can do that I need the dear ducks to lay a few more eggs...

Rechallenge update #8...

02 July, 2013

With only three months left of the 2012/13 challenge to grow at least 80% of my own fruit and veg things seem to be continuing along nicely.

I've always felt that growing most of my produce seems harder in the winter months, but that doesn't really stack up when the numbers get crunched or when I get out into the garden to pick some produce.

June has seen the garden produce exactly 80% of my fruit and veg requirements. Yay garden!

Produce has included: (veg) kale, beetroot, spring onions, lettuce, artichoke stems, carrots, peas, cauliflower, broccoli and spinach, (herbs) parsley, sage, chives, and (fruit) lots of rhubarb. 

Bought produce has been (veg) celery, onions and potatoes as well as (fruit) mandarins, oranges and apples - for apple and rhubarb crumble of course!

Hopefully in future years the mandarins, oranges and apples will be from the garden also. Just need the trees to get big enough to start producing. On the veg front hopefully this coming onion crop will last me through next years winter months, and maybe I'll get around to growing some potatoes for storage too. I've always been pretty crap at growing celery so I'm not making any bets on celery self-sufficiency.

How are your mid-winter crops going? And what are you buying that you could grow next year?