The Fart Egg!

Controversy struck our hen house recently with the discovery of a ‘Fart Egg’.  This a real thing! Who named it?! Some agricultural bogue with a sense of humour? So, WTF is it? A fart egg is where a hen lays a teeny tiny egg (comparative to their usual size) that contains no yolk! You learn something new every day!  Now we’re not quite sure who has the guts to eat it!  Also, some news in the gallina realm is that Laverne is really sick & has hardly been moving/eating for a few days now. Not sure why, but we’re afraid she may be on her way out. We’ve had them quite a while and the hens have lived a good life with us, but it certainly makes you wonder whether or not you should ‘put her out of her misery’ or just let nature take its course. Tough call. Especially when most people’s calls are ‘KFC’.

We’ve planted up our main vegie beds with a whole bunch of brassicas, beets, and a few other randoms in order to ensure some bumper crops are ready to roll around Spring! We’ve also been using our home grown pumpkin, and chillis (yes still hanging in there in winter) for our own home-made pizzas!!

Home-made good times! Our summer Pumpkin, ham, Mozzerella, caramelised onion & rocket + hot salami, mushroom, capsicum & Parmesan!

Home-made good times! Our summer Pumpkin, ham, Mozzerella, caramelised onion & rocket + hot salami, mushroom, capsicum & Parmesan!

The only problem we’ve had is that by the time we get home, its too flipping cold to get out in the garden with a miners light & hack some leafy greens off.. so some of them have happily gone to seed! Our Meyer Lemon tree has been absolutely booming! Our last count was 12 lemons! Not bad for a foot tall tree! We had to celebrate by making lemon delicious pudding (good idea!) and drinking some tequila with lemon (bad idea)! Some new additions to our garden include a Kaffir Lime plant & Scotch Bonnet chilli (perennial) so we will be trying heartily to keep those alive so we can enjoy them both in delicious Thai curries! See the pics below!

In addition to these new plants, we have been discussing whether or not to acquire a hive of bees. In part because we love honey & have fended off many sore throats with this and our ‘Brewtal’ nettle concoction, but also since a hive would also help to pollinate our fruit trees & flowers! Since our Wormies have expanded to two farms, they are known as ‘The Crips & The Bloods’, so we’re not sure of what we should name a hive of bees, should we decide to get ’em. Any ideas? There were also elementary plans to house some rabbits in our backyard to help keep our lawn trimmed and also for food. These plans were quickly shelved when we both realised we’re not capable of killing, skinning and gutting a rabbit. Or anything else for that matter. Yuck!

Also, throughout the winter of our discontent, we have endured high winds, mild to heavy frosts, stupidly cold, dark mornings and the worst of it all: the cold. And one case of man-flu. We’ve both been sniffing on and off for the last part of July. However, we have discovered something which was previously the garden bastard and is now the garden saint: Nettles! They appear to be a cure-all for a number of ailments and have long been known for their health benefits including iron, iodine, calcium, potassium, magnesium, and more (see HerbsareSpecialfor more info).

Nettles! The cornerstone of our Brewtality beverage!

Nettles! The cornerstone of our Brewtality beverage!

We have been juicing up nettles (whole including roots) from our garden with a masticating juicer (slow grind, retains more nutrients/enzymes) along with ginger, garlic and chilli to make a disgusting liqueur we have affectionately titled “Brewtality”.. not just because it tastes like the earth’s sphincter but also has some slightly unpleasant side effects when you consume too much. We have used Nettles as a cold cure, a hangover cure (its also a natural liver/kidney cleanser), and also a stingy weapon against people we don’t like. If you are thinking that this is possibly the ultimate natural body tonic and potential fountain of youth, just take a look at our radiant faces and grab some nettles and find out for yourself! But not too far from a toilet!

Next month, we’ll be sprouting tomato seeds & beginning our crop rotations for spring/summer, and hopefully be a lot less sick!! Adios!

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Mid-Winter Blues

Winter officially sucks. Leaving home in the dark & getting home in the dark. Not much to plant in the garden. Gardening limited to the weekends. Icey winds, frost-bitten mornings, frozen hands & faces. Even the chickens hate it, covering their eyes from the torch with their little wings when we lock them in each night. Thelma is starting to resemble Robert De Niro with her cheek mole & ‘I-just-ate-a-turd’ malicious sneer every morning when she’s ‘forced’ to jump out of bed in the dark & beat the pigeons to her breakfast.

Now that whinge-fest is out of the road, some good things that have kick-started our winter include:

  • making our first Mötley Brüe (our home brew) for this house
  • seeing the Eclipse
  • making home-grown Pumpkin Soup, Nettle SoupApple Chutney & Sourdough Bread for lovely friends & family
  • building a gate for the secret garden with recycled old fence palings
  • building raised/terraced garden beds for fruit trees and vegies along the new back fence (still in progress & yet to fill in with dirt/plants)
  • ditching the overgrown rock-filled patio garden (except the violets & lovely pink-tipped ‘Peace’ Rose which has been moved) with a plan to plant a mini kitchen garden in its place

We have also acquired a new energy-efficient fridge, new compost bin and herb garden (thanks Bel’s Mum & Dad!), a Diggers Garden Club Membership (thanks Nicki & Tom!), more fruit trees, berries, rhubarb & asparagus beds, and two walk-in mini greenhouses (thanks Craig!) for raising our seedlings in preparation for Spring! Plus to fill our seed trays we brought lots of seeds from Diggers (very slow), Cornucopia (mega fast!) and Little Miss Seedy (great heirloom variety).

At the moment we’ve planted: Broccoli, Bok Choy, Cabbage, Brussels Sprouts, Peas, Snowpeas, Onions, Leeks, Lettuce, Swede, Radishes, Carrot, Garlic, Spinach & Broad Beans.

We also have some purple sapphire potatoes to plant but are reluctant to establish where they’ll go since you can’t plant any solanaceae (tomatoes/eggplants/chilli) family plants there for a few seasons otherwise the dirt gets filled with tomato-eating zombies, apparently. We might put them in a container instead! We’ve also resolved to try and plan our plots by succession planting to avoid gluts & voids in our harvests. The next day we planted 100 snowpeas & 30 each of peas, lettuce, kale, onion & silverbeet. Dammit! Alongside driving the speed limit to Pantera & watching Home & Away without an urge to poke your eyes out- half-hearted seed planting  just can’t be done.

The next projects on the cards, apart from finishing our new terraced beds include: recycled fence-pailing herb planter boxes for the kitchen window sill, bricking a pathway up to our 2nd tier terraced bed, making a gate & steps up to the side of our old chicken run (now veg patch). We will also hopefully get our new front & side fence installed, although our fencing contractor has suffered a back injury and contacts us as often as Matthew McConaughey wears shirts.

Hurry up Spring & bring Daylight Savings Time with you!

All the leaves are brown & the sky is grey

During our first autumn in our house, we’ve had quite a few working bees and afternoon teas with Bel’s parents as they have helped us hack down and haul away the overgrown mess that was the shiny leaf and dead ivy-covered trees. So now, all but one tree (holding up our old-school clothesline) remains, we have ripped down the old paling fence and our new higher back fence has been constructed!

Our broccoli crop has come and gone, while our tomatoes and pumpkins (10 this summer!) have been ripped out and been replaced with two crops of brassicas (bok choy, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussels sprouts), alliums (onions, garlic, leeks) with some random spinach, turnip, swede & carrot plantings in between, and a crop of peas and snow peas. We have had a few dramas with our little cluckers, including Thelma and Louise tunnelling out of their new pen, absconding to the neighbours backyard, eating their grass, scratching up their garden and somehow avoiding being eaten by their dog!  Hopefully their new fortified ‘Fort Knox’ pen with a run down the back of the house will keep them happy through the winter months. We are getting the impression that they dislike the frosty dark mornings as much as us since the egg laying frequency has dropped off in the bitter cold snap we’ve had throughout May (Update: the girls had started laying in the tiny space underneath the water tank stand- the things they do for privacy!).

The lovely previous owners who built our home in the 70’s also had an immense affection for concreting rocks into garden borders and we’ve had a few days of hard yakka smashing them up with a crowbar and carting them away. Probably should’ve bought some shares in Lion Nathan, as we’re putting away our fair share of James Squires in the process. We are aiming in the next month to replace the concrete & rocks with raised garden beds with hardwood sleepers around the perimeter of our backyard, 2-3 metres deep so we can plant a vegie bed in front of our fruit trees. Probably should’ve bought shares in Bunnings too since we are down there almost every weekend, mostly to eat sausages and ask directions from the overly descriptive & articulate sales assistant at the Waurn Ponds store -‘You’re looking for bolts? Well, simply trace your steps back to aisle 5 and venture downwards. When you reach the midpoint of the aisle, just before the crescendo of the first segment of shelves, cast your eyes to the hinges that lay around 1-2 feet from your waist, append your gaze further yonder and whilst spinning your torso approximately 180 degrees, you shall envisage said bolts that you are pursuing amidst your quest in this vast store’.  What a total dude!

Our deciduous fruit trees are losing their leaves, and our established pears, nectarines and apples are getting a trimming back and fertilizing to help them repair for spring. We are hoping that this will increase the harvest and fruit quality, especially for our pear which is a bit diseased and produced no fruit suitable for eating this summer. We have just bought two more mandarin trees to extend our winter fruit harvest with early (Imperial), mid (Emperor) and late (Ellendale) fruiting varieties, and will probably be snagging some strawberries, rhubarb and asparagus to plant in perennial beds over winter. After having a crack at making Quince Jam (such lovely flavour and fragrance!), one of us may or may not be trying to convince the other that a quince tree may be the next necessity in our ever expanding collection of fruit trees! You know what they say, go hard or go home … which I never really understood, since if you go hard, you probably will still go home after, so its not really such a polarized ultimatum of dualistic options, is it?

Until next time- keep it real… unless you’re referring to fur or Bert Newtons hair.

Food Glorious Food!

Since moving into our new home, we decided to get cracking ripping out the lovely old garden and putting in a new, more productive one! After much hard work, many trips to Bunnings, we are excited to have our first vegie patch in our new home up and running!

So far this summer, we have given away a few zucchinis, eggs, nectarines and had  still enough to add to most of our meals. We also took some of our produce down to the inaugural Belmont Food Swap and swapped our goods for some Lemons, Mizuna (yum!), and Rhubarb,  and bought some Borage Seedlings, Leek Seeds, and some Plum Syrup super cheap! We have also swapped vegies/eggs with our lovely neighbours over the back fence, and will hopefully be swapping tips on how to grow vegies as amazing as theirs! The concept of sharing and sense of community has been fantastic, especially talking to locals about the climate/seasons, hearing their stories, and seeing the excited faces on kids who have come to visit our chickens!

While we are in the process of tearing out trees and overgrown carpet roses & shrubs to make way for our new garden design, we are also madly trying to propagate seedlings for the next season- autumn/winter. More to come on seed raising later! We recently stained the existing trellis at the entrance of the ‘secret garden’ using Bio Natural Wood Oil which is non-toxic, environmentally friendly, smells amazing and seeps into the wood to protect it from the elements- great stuff. Also at the entrance, we have placed two metal arches that were given to us (thanks Bel’s Mum & Dad) and have started to weave our grapevine/passionfruit/kiwifruit over  the structure, although with recent rains and heat- our wayward pumpkin is taking over. Next on the list- building a permanent gate to prevent our sneaky chickens Thelma & Louise, and Laverne & Shirley from escaping out of their pen!