2013: Year of the Golden Girl Chickens

Happy Lunar New Year -year of the snake, a chickens 3rd worst foe! Since we’ve spent a busy January madly harvesting, pruning, digging and constructing in our garden, we forgot to post an update, so here it is.

So far in 2013, a lot has happened in our suburban hippy farm. We’ve added a second box to our bee hive, harvested around 6 zucchini’s a day since Christmas (yes, 6.. that’s not a typo), we’ve installed an irrigation system for two of our five large vegetable beds, and we’ve helped friends build some walls of their straw bale house. But most notably, we got more chickens!!

Whole Lotta Rosie- our new golden girl chicken Rose

Whole Lotta Rosie

After a trip to a cage egg farm, Craig bought four chickens home. They were so lovely, we named them after the golden girls: Sophia, Dorothy, Rose and Blanche. Sophia is a bit ballsy and has a tuft of white/grey down feather across her back, Dorothy is a giant (with a bald bum, apparently akin to Bea Arthur’s thin quiff), Rose is the most timid and shy, and Blanche is very affectionate (tart!) and brazen just like in the show!

Louise and Shirley both look so feathered and healthy compared, we’ve taken to referring to them as either ‘the old girls’ or ‘the fatties’, I’m sure they’d be keen on neither of those nicknames.

Sneaky Sophia and the giant zucchini!

Sneaky Sophia and the giant zucchini!

Initially, Louise greeted our new editions with consistent fly kicking to the head, but after being plied with ample food, Louise and Sophia (the bossies) have taken to escaping from their massive run and mowing down our kale, spinach, silverbeet and even our new drip line irrigation system because it was looked at them funny… crazy ladies! Amongst all this absconding, the daring duo laid a neat dozen eggs under an echium bush over the last two weeks, which we found just as we were planning a trip to the supermarket to get some more eggs. Thanks ladies!

Double decker bees

Double decker Bees!

Just when we thought we were busy buzzing around a hectic social calendar and gig-list this summer, our bees have been working overtime and even into the night on a hot summer evening to build up the second tier of their hive. Their honeycomb is looking marvellous, the sweet honey inside the comb is very runny and delightfully sweet to taste.

In other news, our new drip irrigation system is working wonders and saving us heaps of time watering the night before a hot day (it normally takes us around 30-60 minutes just to give all the fruit trees and veggie beds a quick drink).

The back veggie patch

The back veggie patch

It’s just non-pressure compensating drip line from Mitre 10 (around $25 a roll) combined with a whole bunch of clips, corners, T-style connectors, tap connectors and some fake lawn pegs (similar to tent pegs) to hold them in place. We highly recommend it, as it’s a great idea for anyone who wants to plant a veg patch or even just some fruit trees but is afraid they might neglect them, or water to much/not enough, and its also very water wise if you slowly drip water into the soil on dusk (little evaporation) and mulch around 10-15 cms with pea straw (this also saves weeding! Double win!).

Zucchini harvest after 2 days: Help!

Zucchini harvest after 2 days: Help!

Last, and probably least exciting for most… our garden is going gangbusters with a ridiculous amount of harvesting done each day. We are getting an eggplant a week, 3-4 good harvests of beans, around 8-10 medium to huge tomatoes each week, 5-10 pumpkins kicking on, 15 corn stalks burgeoning with technicoloured delights, basil bushes, apple cucumber, parsley growing like weeds, 15 odd celery and around 40 beetroots finally looking ready, 6-7 zucchini’s per day (we have to harvest daily as they grow from small flowers to regular size overnight- we harvested one zucchini which had been left for 2 days and it weighed 2.5kgs and was the size of a small baby). We also found out that just like broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower can be ‘cut and grow again’ as we uncovered what was thought to be a weed was a mini cauli growing out of a cut-off stalk! Ok! Party. Bonus.

Zucchini noodles with creamy basil & spinach pesto sauce

Zucchini noodles with creamy basil & spinach pesto sauce

We’ve also acquired a ‘vegetable spiralizer’ which turns carrots, potatoes and most importantly, zucchini’s into angel hair, spaghetti style or tagliatelle thickness ‘pasta’ strands! Our first meal using this divine gadget included spinach, basil and silverbeet pesto harvested from our garden blended with silken tofu, garlic, paprika and pinenuts to create a creamy super-iron and calcium rich pasta sauce. Hot diggity! We’ve also made zucchini chocolate brownies at least three times, in massive batches.. which have each lasted only one day, but they’re mostly zucchini so it’s practically dieting to eat half a kilo of brownies for dinner! Honest!

Our fruit harvests have been great too, although a small harvest for some plants, which have fruited for the first time this summer, including 10 apricots (that were saved from grimy possum paws), a dozen gorgeous Santa Rosa blood plums, and 2 baskets of nectarines and peaches. We were surprised to harvest 3 yellow nectarines… from a tree that was still clearly labelled from the nursery ‘peach’… D’oh! However, they were delicious!

Looking forward, our 3 apple trees and pears are ready to rock and our citrus forest of kaffir lime, tangelo, lemons, limes and oranges are all getting some cool teeny fruits ready for their winter fruiting time, so we’ll be counting the days till our next flourless orange cake. We hope your summer is as fruitful and Vitamin D filled as ours has been & keep on rocking in the free world, where not much is free except smiles, hugs and the occasional zucchini if you’re dropping by our place. Peace.

Springing into Spring

Lemon & Mint Broadbean Smash topped with an Egg

Lemon & Mint Broadbean Smash topped with an Egg

Today, we ate one of the most heart warming, and glorious fast-foods ever made with produce from our own humble garden. We made our own variation on Jamie Oliver’s home-grown broadbean smash on toast, with home-grown Meyer lemon juice & hand-picked mint, topped with an egg from our ladies. Delish! The broadbean patch almost appearing overnight from left over beans that dried and dropped in place from our patch last year, and the eggs were found in a bunch hidden under an echium/nettle patch in the girls run so it’s entirely an accidental lunch. For free!

2kgs of accidental Broad Beans!

2kgs of accidental Broad Beans!

Just last week, we clocked 2 whole years since we moved in. After taking a pic of our garden this morning, in full bloom with nasturtiums, cornflowers and alyssum planted alongside our cabbages, broccoli and herbs, it really feels like home. Not entirely finished, and probably way too much veg garden for us to handle alongside the behind-garage mini orchard and patches, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.

We’ve ripped down a gorgeous but non-productive garden, hauled away hundreds of rocks (PS if you need garden rocks, come on down, we’ve got enough to last till rapture), dug up concrete, compost bins and even a soup ladle (!?), torn down pest trees and ivy and re-built everything from scratch and brought in loads of soil for our raised beds.

Floweries and Vegies, live together in perfect harmony

Floweries and Vegies, live together in perfect harmony

We can truly appreciate why some people have lawns- they’re seemingly easy. Mow, fertilize, weed, forget. But they are super boring and taste pretty horrid. Our remaining lawn patch even has the occasional broccoli or silverbeet seedling growing right smack bang in the middle of it! For the time it takes to mow our  ever-decreasing lawns, it takes that time threefold to weed, seed, feed and water our productive garden. However, for all the work involved in keeping a vegetable patch healthy & thriving, we wouldn’t trade it for the world. Every meal we eat that we’ve helped grow seems not only to feed our appetites but also our souls. Hippy dippy stuff, I know but try it yourself & see that it’s true, its addictive, and awesome sauce. Plus it’s organic, fresher, tastier and the food miles are no more than 20 metres and we can burn the calories we’re about to scoff with more gardening! Win Win Win!

Our bees, fanning the hive & bringing back nectar

Our bees, fanning the hive & bringing back nectar

Our bees are thriving, and regularly hanging out in our garden, smooching flowers in our overgrown (to 8-9ft!) espaliered apple tree and veg patch. They also don’t really enjoy us coming right up to the hive, so we weed & take care of that area on dusk, when they’re all partied out. Next week, we start our bee-keeping course so stay tuned for some information, and possibly injury photos if we mess it up and get stung. Our families and friends are at once frightened and concerned about us keeping bees, but also shelving that thought to make way for the kgs of honey happiness that will be happening around April 2013. Did you know that bee’s spend their entire lives working to get 1/10th of a tsp of honey and most of the bees are workers, who are female! Go Ladies! Even if we get no honey, the joy we get from watching the bees forage around, communicate by dancing (!!!) and share their pollen/nectar feasts with the masses. Hooray for bees!

Happy Gardening!!