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Archive for December, 2009

Mr Cornwall went out to the chickens yesterday to collected our daily egg and discovered that the chicks had already hatched.

Surprise!

All has gone very well – until this morning.

I was watering the garden in preparation for another scorcher when I heard alarmed chick peeps coming from the run.  Bad Aunty Chicken was standing on one chick in the middle of the run pecking at it – hence the peeps.

Needless to say we have separated Bad Aunty into her own temporary run.

Mum Chicken and both Chicks seem OK so far.

Happy New Year!

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Can you see the Earwig hiding in the hole?

While watering the Garden  this morning I found another beautiful tomato with a big black hole.  Nestled inside was an Earwig and a pile of Earwig Babies.  Could it be that these rotten spots are caused by Earwig nom-age?

So in case it is – I’ve placed an Earwig trap under the tomatoes.  They are made from ‘Take-away’ plastic containers.  Make a few holes along the side with a pair of scissors then fill with vegetable oil.  Place the lid on the container and bury in the soil up to the depth of the holes.

Earwig Trap

I also topped up the ‘Slug Hotels’ with fresh beer – as they are also very handy at catching and killing Earwigs.

Beer traps - container below soil level holds beer - lid keeps rain out.

Will check traps tomorrow and see if I have caught many.

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First bean harvest

Beans are really performing well this year.  Green beans from ‘Pioneer Bush Beans’ and lovely purple beans ‘Purple King’.  Radishes are very slow – pictured above is a young ‘French Breakfast’.

Having a new tomato problem this year.  Cherry tomatoes are growing well but ‘Beef steak’ and Roma are developing horrible black rot inside as they grow.

Rotting tomatoes?

Looking through gardening books and the web suggests this might be a lack of calcium in the soil?  I’m surprised as I fertilised this bed with Cow Poo which should be high in calcium?  Tomorrow morning I’m going to add more ‘Blood and Bone’ to soil and water in with seaweed tea.

If it is a calcium deficiency then the next lot of tomatoes should be OK.  I hate to complain but I really feel that it is time for a good tomato year – sigh.

Recommended listening for gardening this week.  Two fabulous interviews by Phillip Adams on Gardening.

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Here in Melbourne we are waking up to a scorching 39 degrees (Centigrade = 102 Fahrenheit) while messages from friends in the UK and USA flood into our inboxes still coated in snow flurries.

In preparation for the sizzling weather I’ve watered the vegetable garden early, covered the chicken house in a big wet rug and placed old bed sheets over delicate younger plants.  Days like today just fry the garden.

I’ve finally mulched the garden beds with ‘Sugar Cane Mulch’ which is cheap and lasts well in the garden.  It isn’t as environmentally friendly as locally grown Pea Straw – as it travels a long way down to us from Queensland – giving it the environmental footprint of Jack B00ts.  The thing is I’ve not been able to find Pea Straw in recent months – so Cane Mulch it is.

Today I will see if leaving the mulching later this year has made the plants more resilient in the heat – fingers crossed.

In the meantime – I hope your garden is growing well and that you are looking forward to either watching your garden out the window from a warm-fire-side or like us celebrating the turn of the year from underneath a shade tree.

Merry Merry Merry All

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Demelza settling in the new Potentials.

Demelza has taken on two more eggs to brood. A friend who is trying to raise two Guinea Fowl got home this evening to find that his broody had given up sitting – so he dashed the eggs over here to place under our faithful Demelza.

Tricky thing is that Buffys and Guinea Fowl have different incubation periods, GF a week longer than the Buffy so Demelza will only have to sit on four eggs until an alternative broody chicken can be found…

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Our chicken Demelza has gone very broody and as luck would have it a friends at work had some spare Buffy Bantam Eggs fertilised and waiting to go into her incubator.  We have never raised chicks before so this is a very exciting Christmas project for the Backyard Farm.

The 'Potentials' arrive home ready to go under Demelza - B1 & B2

We waited until dusk and then snuck the eggs under Demelza – who quickly resettled putting the eggs against the warm patch of bare skin she has plucked on her belly.  I know that this is athropomorphising but she seemed to be making little happy chicken noises, lol.

The Mother Hen - Demelza the Leghorn Bantam.

So now we wait three weeks.  I’ve been reading up on how to raise the chicks, so far it seems we need to:

  • Help Demelza keep the nest clean.
  • Make sure she leaves the eggs and eats once a day (books say some chicken can stare to death?)
  • Sprinkle the eggs with water in the two days before hatching (three weeks away) so that if the eggs have dried out at all the hatchlings don’t stick to the egg membrane.
  • Buy baby chicken food – crumble at the Produce Store.

We aren’t allowed to keep Rosters in this part of Urban Melbourne – so if the Potentials turn out to be Spike and Angel rather than Buffy and Faith – they will return to the farm on which they were conceived.  By the time we know if they are Rosters or Hens Demelza will not be too interested in them anymore.

So very exciting run up to Christmas here – it seems that spring brooded hens will be winter layers – this will help with keeping eggs available for the kitchen all year round.  Tabbitha is still laying and happy to be the boss of the chicken coop for a change.

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My 'well thumbed' Eden Seeds Catalogue

Soon there will be space in the garden for another bed of climbing beans.  The weather has been warm and very wet , which seems to be, ‘bean weather’ – the Purple King Climbing Beans are now two-thirds of the way up their trellis. I have thought about trying Lazy Housewife Bean again – but despite the catalogues seductive promise of ‘delicious flavour and heavy bearing over a long period of time’ – Madam has failed to deliver over the last three summers. Operating on the ‘three strikes and your out’ principle I feel that it is time to try another variety.

I have a copy of the Eden Seeds Catalogue which I have cherished since 2006.  Seed catalogues are my guilty pleasure (blushing as I type).  Eden Seeds are on the web and their site is easy to use – but the web is no substitute for my old tatty paper catalogue. I love sitting with a coffee reading the descriptions of all the fabulous varieties, the strange shapes, interesting colours and promise of plenty. The Lab Lab Bean, Kentucky Wonder or Molley’s Zebra Bean “saved by Molley Mollison”, visions of the long succession of gardeners who have grown and saved these seeds fills my soul with wonder.

I’ve settled on ‘Epicure’ quoting from the catalogue “Fleshy, flat green pod to 18cm, long harvest period, popular home garden variety.  In 1929 L H Brunning says “The most delicately flavoured…” Eaten young they are tender and practically stringless”.  I’m sold!

I sometimes select seeds in the same way that I, try each year to, select a winning horse for the Melbourne Cup – yes you guessed it – do I like your name? I would like to tell you that my extensive record keeping holds valuable data that allows me to pick a winning variety – this would be a flat out furphy . I’ve been thinking about the philosopher Epicurus a lot recently and the name caught my eye – bingo – we have a winner.

I re-read  and watched ‘The consolations of philisophy’ by Alain de Botton recently – specifically the section on the philosopher Epicurus and his community called ‘The Garden’. Epicurus suggested that in order to be happy a person needed friendship, self-sufficiency and time for reflection.  He and his followers worked, thought and spend a lot of their time tending a vegetable garden in order to find happiness.

I’ve been wondering what Epicurus would make of our back fence and modern urban living. Given that he didn’t like urban living in Athens in 306 BC I can’t imagine that modern Melbourne would take his fancy.

So reflecting on which of the experiments I will try in the New Year to connect my garden to my community and inspired by Epicurus I’m going to try setting up the Veggie Gardening Coffee Club in a local cafe or gardening centre. I’m hoping that by advertising an informal opportunity to discuss veggie gardening, varieties that are growing well in our local area and maybe swapping surplus seeds I can connect with other growers.

Maybe a coffee club would not be to Epicurus’ taste either – but I’m absolutely certain that he would have loved sharing a jug of water in my garden while swapping seed catalogues.

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