Sunday, December 28, 2008

Plentiful Spring harvest...

So what's done well this Spring? Lots of things it's been a good season! Our best discovery has been the white or albino beetroot, sadly I don't have a pic, but they outgrew any other beetroot we've grown, didn't have the overpowering earthy flavour some beets have and cooked easily without staining anything. It has also been a good Spring for green globe artichokes, They're all gone now but all have nice fresh suckers coming up for next year's harvest. Truth be told we are as glad to see the end of artichoke season as we are to see the start, delicious beasties but the processing can be time consuming and a little messy. The Fordhook giant silverbeet has been a constant performer as has the Black Kale (Cavolo Nero), I think we will try a 'perpetual spinach' variety of the silverbeet next. The dwarf beans 'hawksbury wonder' have also been productive and tasty. Early Spring saw a great harvest of 'Aquadulce' broad beans and 'Mammoth Melting' snow peas.
Right now the garden is ticking along, all the potatoes are flowering, the tomatoes are fruiting, the 'Jalapeno' chillis are flowering and the Zucchinis are producing. I have put in half a dozen new silverbeet seedlings into raised bed 2 behind the black kale, they have settled in nicely.

Cheers Aldrum

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Garden Tip...

Got any old bicycle inner tubes lying around? Both Sarahbelly and I commute to corporate slavery via treadlies, along debris ridden roads and bike paths. When your tube becomes more patch than tyre why not cut them into strips and use them as soft, stretchy, recyclable plant ties. You can cut them as long as you like for different needs, and you get a lot of them from one tube.
Must acknowledge Garden Oz's Josh Byrne for the idea and Hope Farm Journal's Sarahbelly for the patient scissor action.
Cheers Aldrum

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Put the kettle on

Hi there. By now Aldrum has given you a rather thorough tour of the garden and you must be parched!

How about a cuppa?

Something both refreshing and relaxing - peppermint tea should do the trick. It just kinda makes everything right in the world.

I've found the flavour of organic peppermint tea to be so different to ordinary peppermint tea bags, far more mellow, it made me wonder what they actually do to the non-organic stuff. But of course they sell organic tea by the gram and it costs a fortune.

So how hard could it be to make my own? Not very, I discovered, now I have free, fresh and organic peppermint tea whenever I like!

We picked up a peppermint plant at St Andrews market.

Several months later it has taken off and every few weeks I'm able to borrow a few of its bright green shoots to make some tea.

Here's what I do:

  • Snip off a couple of handfuls of shoots and remove leaves from the stems.

  • Wash really well in a salad spinner and spin off as much water as possible.
  • Set in the sun for a few hours to dry some more.

  • Place leaves in a paper bag, loosely closed and put bag in a warm place (mine is next to our hot water system in the laundry).
  • After about a week the leaves should be dry and brittle to the touch (like Autumn leaves).
  • You can either grind these up manually - with your hands or in a mortar and pestle - or, to get a more even leaf size, blend them in the bowl of a stab mixer.

  • Store tea in a dry, airtight container.
  • Put a teaspoon of the leaves in an infuser and steep in boiled water for five minutes to enjoy!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

A Garden Of Earthly Delights...

What do we harvest here at Hope Farm? Anything we can, is the short answer. This is all an experiment, we intend to head to the country some day get ourselves at least an acre and create a more appropriately sized permaculture development. I have a good friend who specialises in indigenous species for the native garden but I want to provide the kitchen garden know how myself. I have spent as much of my time reading Royal Horticultural, Diggers Club, Monty Don, etc. texts as I have in the garden. I also read blogs and participate in various community forum-style websites. All research in preparation for a close to self sufficient lifestyle, away from our corporate slavery, in the country.
Seasonal vegetables are just that, seasonal. You appreciate the taste of your first red tomato a thousand times more when you had to wait through winter for it, and two thousand times more when you grew it yourself. Even though we cannot possibly grow enough fresh tomatoes on our small block to keep us all year we do not buy them in winter and prefer to wait, making the moment something to savour (a moment we had on the 10th). For us the experiment is to find out what grows well in our climate, what produces well, what quantity we need etc. The pics down the side are some examples of what we grow and harvest.
This year we have red, ripe tomatoes in December. If you can do that in Melbourne (outdoors) apparently you're doing quite well. Nuthin to do with us mind... This is all because we let a "volunteer" or self seeded tomato grow wild. I think it is very important to not intervene in any way with at least one plant in your crop, ie do not stake, prune axils etc. only then do you have a control by which you can know if what you do to your other plants is helping or hindering.. Allowing this volunteer to do its thing has also shown me that tomatoes can go in a lot earlier here than Melbourne cup day. This one started back in August.

Cheers Aldrum

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The setup...

So how is the garden set up? well the front garden we try to keep for ornamental plants. Not that vegetables don't look great, vegetable gardens can be very ornamental, but the back garden raised beds were designed and built with budget before appearance. Fruit trees and Artichokes are all in the front as well as one raised bed bordered with aesthetically pleasing red bricks.

The back garden is more functional, it is home to the chooks, four of the raised beds, a large ground level bed, the garage, laundry (homebrew centre of excellence), washing line etc. The front garden therefore is like a permaculture zone 3, it doesn't need a hell of a lot of attention, the fruit trees get the benefit of a grey water hose which comes from the shower. We have found a local organic shop that sells organic shampoos and conditioners (for Sarah's benefit, look at my pic) and we use them sparingly. The back garden is like a mixed permaculture zone 1/2, and with a little forethought we can plan to have the labour intensive crops in raised bed 4, which is a little closer to the back of the house. The ground level vegie bed in the back gets the benefit of a grey water hose from the laundry and we buy a garden safe laundry powder. This is the best solution for us because the ground level bed carries taller crops, so the edibles are further from the ground and also therefore the grey water, and because in a drought stricken land every drop counts.

Cheers Aldrum

Sunday, November 30, 2008

The dream begins...

What we do to try and provide our own requirements is to a certain degree based on the permaculture principles, however when your block is as small as ours there are certain compromises to be made. Our front garden is made up mostly of ornamentals some of which I'm proud to say are native... Pretty much what we have is inherited from the previous owners, neither myself nor Sarah Belly are very knowledgeable regarding ornamentals. There is also a miniature peach tree, a miniature nectarine, two miniature apples, a kalamata olive (a must in a very European/Mediteranean Brunswick), several artichokes and as of recently a 2.5*1.2m raised bed (owned & operated by Sarah Belly).

In the back garden we have a laundry containing the hot water service which gives us a warm microclimate for homebrewing. Besides this we have a chook run and hen house, 4 raised beds, and one standard (non-raised) bed. Initially I had to construct raised beds along one boundary to lift vegs out of the reach of the roots of a neighbours peppercorn tree. Very shortly after I had lost blood sweat and tears constructing the raised beds (an accident prone with his first angle grinder experience), they removed the tree...

Here is the first raised bed, (along with the wicking experiment), the wick was never going to work in a high raised bed built with the "no dig" method as the drainage is too good and you can't create a shallow enough sink to wick from, kids learn from my mistakes...

Then the second smaller one...
Jemima and mascara were suitably impressed..

Then there were four...

O.K. so they weren't pretty in the classical sense, but, they are very practical and extremely productive. imagine them with healthy, tasty, fresh veg pouring out of them.

Cheers Aldrum

To Introduce Ourselves...

Hello and welcome to the first Hope Farm journal post. This journal is our attempt to maintain some order in our garden. Its number one purpose is to remind us what we did, when we did it, and whether or not this improved our yields.

First to introduce, there are two authors Aldrum and Sarah Belly, we live on a small property in a suburb ten minutes to Melbourne's north, on this property we try to grow or produce most of our own food. We do not claim to be self sufficient, however, at certain times of the year we do get pretty close.

Living with us is a small dog named Basil who was found by the council dog catcher at a train station with paws stained with paint, amongst empty spray paint cans, nearby a freshly done mural. We have adopted her and reformed her delinquent behaviour.

Also living with us are four chickens; Jemima, Mascara safety trial no. 32a, Steve mcqueen and Tigerella
queen of the jungle. They are productive, happy chooks who have no concerns about Basil.

I spend part of my time as a medical scientist, part as a musician and part as a keen horticulturalist. Sarah
Belly spends part of her time as a corporate high flyer, part as a dancer, and part as an amazing cook.

In this Blog I (Aldrum) will record my garden thoughts and activities and Sarah Belly will amaze us with recipes and ideas for best use of the harvest.

Over the next few posts I will try and establish where we are up to and what has been done so far.

heers Aldrum