Zucchini Tuesday...

29 January, 2013

Bring on the zuke!  Many thanks to Louise for giving cause to celebrate the humble zucchini.

Finally my two plants seem to be producing some decent crops.

So I decided to make pizza.

Probably not the first thing you think of when you think zucchini, but it's one of my favourite pizza toppings.

I use a mandolin to thinly slice the zucchini.

Then a standard pizza base with a tomato sauce is topped with a thin layer of zucchini.

 Then add mozzarella chunks, microplaned parmesan and basil.

 Chucked onto a preheated tray and into the oven on its highest heat. 5-8 minutes later...

Zucchini heaven.

First Anzac peach...

28 January, 2013


Three sisters update...

27 January, 2013

This year, for the first time, I've trialled the 'three sisters' method of growing corn.

For those who are unfamiliar with the idea it is a system of growing corn, climbing beans and either pumpkin or cucumbers (depending on your reference) together. In theory the climbing beans live up to their names by climbing up the corn, and provide additional nitrogen to the soil as legumes do which helps the corn to grow, and the pumpkin/cucumbers sprawl on the ground and act as a living mulch and retain moisture in the soil.

I planted out my corn and bean seedlings, and planted pumpkin seeds back in late November. It is now a bit of a jungle.

The beans are climbing well

In fact, some too well as they are climbing well above the height of the corn. Beans are clearly the overachieving sister. But there are beans coming along nicely, so I'm happy.

The pumpkins (in my case) are growing, but no baby pumpkins are appearing as yet.

I'm not sure that they really get enough sunlight in this system to crop well. But as I'm not a massive pumpkin fan this doesn't phase me. I do think that I have been watering these less than the corn I grew on its own last year. But bear in mind that is based on completely unreliable memory and doesn't take into account the different climatic conditions from year to year. So maybe the pumpkins have done their jobs.

But either way the corn has grown and produced delicious cobs.

I tell when they are ready by the mostly brown silks.

To be sure I then check to see if there are well formed kernels.

To be extra sure I then break a kernel with my thumbnail and look for a milky ooze, which tells me the cobs are ready.

If the ooze is clear then they need another day or two.

Then I race the cobs to the kitchen into pan of already boiling water.

Off we go...

Zucchini Tuesday...

22 January, 2013

Yay for the splendour of the zucchini!

Especially when they finally start producing plenty of zucchini.

Ok, so its not exactly a glut, but its more than none or one so I feel happy.

The large zucchini was gently sauteed with onion, a few tomatoes (again, another crop that is finally more that just the odd one) and a little salt and pepper.

So simple, but so delicious.

Meet the new recruits...

19 January, 2013

I have been quieter than usual on the blogging front this week because I've been busy building housing for my newest project. So no time for taking photos and writing posts.

But I intend to make up for it now, as I have photos galore. Believe me, I am only posting less than a quarter of the taken photos; I could go on forever, pretty much.

Here are the newest recruits to Bek's Backyard (literally, they are in the backyard):


Aren't they beautiful! I'm so excited!

I now have a flock of six Welsh Harlequins; three drakes and three ducks. They are about 10 weeks old (except for one which is almost one year old - you may be able to see one slightly bigger one in the pics) and have come from a lovely flock owned by a lovely couple in Mansfield. From whence yesterday evening I picked them up and drove them to Melbourne in a big box in the back of my car. (Stopping on the way there at a couple of wineries to break up the drive of course, and consequently there was also a box of wine in the boot on the way home...)

So today was the first day in their new digs. I hope they like it.

They will mostly stay in this mini enclosure, but I plan to let them access the main backyard when I'm around to supervise so they will have room to properly stretch their legs.

They seem to like the mini pool from Bunnings (thanks Sam for the tip; pity I found no shell pool, this one will just have to do.) The water was clean this morning, I swear.

They are still a little skittish being in a new place and tend to flock together.

I just love their beautiful plumage.

The one in the front right is my favourite (yes, I already have favourites.)

But this is no philanthropic holiday leisure accommodation, oh no. The plan is for one drake and two or three ducks (I haven't decided yet) to be both egg layers (the ducks of course, not the drake) as well as future duckling providers, and the superfluous two will end up on my table.

I know that's not everyone's cup of tea, but I've been thinking for a while that for me to feel that I can eat meat I need to raise and (as humanely as possible) kill an animal. I was explaining to work colleagues, when it came up as I was telling them what I was doing this weekend, that I feel that for me to be ok with eating meat I need to have the experience of raising, killing and butchering an animal for myself. If I can't stomach that then it feels hypocritical for me to eat meat purely because someone else is doing the raising, killing and butchering and I don't have to deal with it. That is why I picked a breed that are both good layers and good eating.

I really don't know how this experiment is going to go. I have done a massive amount of reading up both on housing requirements for ducks, different breeds as well as how to humanely kill poultry (although my grandmother grew up on a farm and used to keep ducks and geese and she is going to help me). They are at least a good couple of months away from being ready for table (as well as starting to lay, somewhere between 4-6 months) so I know I need to keep firmly in my mind that some of these are for eating.

I do plan on naming them. At first I was going to call them things like Pate and L'orange, but now I'm thinking of naming them after French chefs even though they are Welsh. Escoffier, Bocuse, Careme, Larousse... I need two more names. It's not yet a done deal. I'm happy for any suggestions.

What do they look like to you?

Rechallenge update #2...

12 January, 2013

It's a quarter of the way into my up-the-anti challenge to grow 80% of my fruit and veg for a year.

The month of December felt slow in the garden. So many things were growing, but not cropping. (Sadly its still that way for some of the summer crops, but they're much closer!) There seemed to be so many plants around, but not many for eating. Yet.

Consequently, I was a bit concerned that this would be another month to hit below the target. Not good when this is supposed to be peak growing season. Maybe I had bitten off more than I could chew with this challenge (which is an ironic metaphor given the lack of things for chewing).

But, deceptively, the garden did alright. The excel spreadsheet in which I calculate my totals for each month tells me that in December the garden provided (drumroll please).... 86% of my fruit and veg.

Yay garden.

(But please don't worry me like that again.)

Come on cucumbers...

10 January, 2013

Finally the summer crops seem to be hitting their stride. I had my first zucchini earlier this week, and today I picked my first cucumber.

I have copied and slightly adapted 500m2's cucumber growing strategy, but if I recall correctly her structure was made of posts and string for the plants to grow up. I've used some old lattice bits (plastic and wood) to build the required angled structure to allow the plants to grow up (the plastic bottles are to ensure I don't poke my eyes out by accident on the posts) but for the cucumbers to hang down between the squares which makes for easy pickings.

It works much better than when I've grown them up vertical supports, which required lots more training, or growing them sprawling on the ground, where finding the fruit is a challenge.

There are more cucumbers on their way.

Come on cucumbers!

Zucchini Tuesday - I have one!...

08 January, 2013

Louise at Garden Glut has had the great good sense to start a ongoing Tuesday celebration of the zucchini. And today I feel like I can actually properly join in, because I finally have one.

I wouldn't say its the finest specimen of zucchini ever, but it does alright. This one is from the Costata variety zuke for which I sowed seeds for about the same time as I planted a nursery bought Black Jack variety plant back in late November.

The aforementioned nursery bought zucchini (which was unfortunately twice dug up by bastard animals, but has lived to tell the tale) is looking reasonably well.

It has little zukes appearing, but sadly it has done so for a while but none have eventuated.

I'm not sure why. They don't appear to be being eaten. Hopefully these ones will make it to the table. But given how the home sown zucchini has fruited first, I don't think I'll be buying another zucchini plant again.

Here is the Costata, which you can see is ahead on the growing stakes.

There was the above picked zucchini, which I saw come up a week ago and diligently fertilised with male zucchini flower pollen. Even so it doesn't look like a properly fertilised fruit, but I picked it anyway.

I hope your zucchini are producing wonderful and plentiful specimens of this fine vegetable.

And wherever you are I hope you are safe and sound in this crazy bushfire prone country of ours.

Harvest for keeping...

05 January, 2013

So much of what I grow is designed for immediate consumption, or at least within 24hrs. With gluts it's a matter of using up what can't be used then and there, in which the Fowlers Vacola unit or dehydrator usually plays a part.

But today's harvest needs no such work. Today I harvested the onion crop.

They were thankfully much more successful than my garlic crop this year, but they were in an area which gets sun pretty much all day, with the exception of the early morning when I took this photo. These days I do most of my gardening first thing in the morning and after 5pm, otherwise its just too damn hot.

In the middle of this bed is the young plum tree, and last year it was the watermelon bed - which is why there are self seeded watermelons beginning to sprawl.

As you can see, the onions had started to bend over at the neck, which is a sign they are ready for harvest.

I grew 3 varieties of onions; Early Cream Gold, Barletta and Sweet Domenica.

The biggest by far were the Sweet Domenica (I'm definitely growing these again next year), followed by Early Cream Gold, then Barletta. Though each variety had some big 'uns and small 'uns.

The biggest of the Sweet Domenica's

The tiddliest of the Barletta's

But all up it was a decent harvest.

Now I have laid them out on a very old and decrepit table that gets a little morning sun but mostly is in shade to dry out before plaiting for storage. The hot weather will do all the work in drying them, thank goodness.

Hopefully this will keep me in onions for a while.

Not quite enough for a smoothie...

04 January, 2013

Here is the 2013 blueberry haul.

That there is a 450% increased crop compared to last year.

They are looking a bit shriveled due to the heat (43 degrees in Melbourne today - insane!) but were very tasty.

I hope all you gardeners out there in Aus are managing ok with this crazy heatwave. But for now I hope you have a cool drink and an air conditioner (I have the former but not the latter. Fans don't quite cut it in these temps. Ah well. Someday soon, hopefully.)

Beetroot seed bounty... and Happy New Year!

01 January, 2013

Today I tamed the beetroot forest that was taking over a part of the front yard.

As you can see quite a few beetroots had gone to seed. Some were tall beetroot seed trees, others had fallen and were sprawling along the ground, where I had many times had to twist and turn them back into the garden area and away from the paths that they wanted to take over.

But now the seed was starting to get dry and needed to be harvested.

So harvest I did.

I now have a mountain of beetroot seed which will dry out a bit further and then get packaged up for storage. But I have more beetroot seed than I could possibly need. If anyone would like some please feel free to email me - rsstie [at] gmail [dot] com - and I'll send you as much as you like. It comes from a beetroot that once was Bulls Blood but I've grown many varieties and it may not be entirely true to type, but I expect it will be beetrooty none the less.

I sowed some of the seed (or couldn't be bothered picking the seeds that fell out from the ground) in the same spot, and will move the bearded iris' that don't really seem to be enjoying that spot.

But now at least there is no fear of beetroots taking over the world.