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.

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The girls of summer

Summer rocks my socks! Last night an incredible deluge of rain followed a cracking good thunderstorm, during which I made ratatouille for 11 people at work almost entirely from veg from our garden!

One of our favourite summer things to do is to let the chickens out for a scratch around the garden, pick some veg for our dinner and enjoy a beer on the patio. Tonight, after work, in my suit, I sauntered out to the garden to check up on the girls and I noticed there were quite a few more toms ripe for the picking. Well.. an entire basket .. FULL to my delight. In fact, I was so distracted by the tomato harvest that I somehow stepped in dog and chicken poo at pretty much the same time, and we don’t even own a dog! Way to punt the cherry off my sundae guys!

I also noticed a few other things going on around the garden:

An unknown animal has decided to munch on one of our pumpkins (and quite a few tomatoes), so we will have to perhaps try to deter a possum or plant some rat bait, depending on whomever is the culprit. We have also tried an experiment with our tomatoes, trying to force their ripening by putting them in a zip-lock bag with a banana- and it worked! But even still, we’d rather they ripen on the vine! Since our tomatoes have been going gang busters, we have either made them into a delicious roasted tomato pasta sauce, or ate them raw in salads with a sprinkle of sea salt and pepper. However, I recently noticed something quite peculiar when I bought some tomatoes to work to give to a friend who is also a qualified chef. She said thanks and asked me “What type are the tomatoes… Are they ‘Truss’ tomatoes?? I started thinking about the apathetic supermarket veg section which has sometimes two varieties of tomatoes- a disgusting hybrid tasteless variety they oft call ‘gourmet’ tomato (sometimes sold for twice the price with the truss/twig still attached) and roma tomatoes, both tasting like garbage. This makes us feel a little sad for consumers who don’t know what kind of yummy amazing heirloom non-hybridized tomato varieties are out there!! This summer we are growing around 8-10 different varieties of heirloom tomatoes, not including the random ones that have sprouted from last years seeds, and each are tastier than the next! So we highly recommend that you get out there and try to grow some old-fashioned varieties like Zebra, Tigerella, Amish Paste, Black Krim, and see for yourself how delicious tomatoes can be!

Not only are our tomatoes going great guns, so are our girls! Our chickens recently had a holiday, during which time we went to New Zealand. No, not with the chickens. But they came back with more feathers and a penchant to scratch up any green patch they could find. However within days of our return, we found ourselves with two escapees and again had to re-fortify the chicken pen.
It won’t be long until we change their run to the side of the house, to provide them with a new area to peck around, and also some protection from the whipping autumn/winter winds.

Summer has also provided us with some new skills and inspiration, since we constructed our side fence (see pics above). We’re pretty proud of it since we’ve had no previous fence-building experience but since completing it, our next step will probably be world domination with mad skillz like that! We are looking forward to the culmination of our ‘catch crops’ of cabbage, kohlrabi, tomatillos, beans, spinach and silverbeet that we planted around the same time as the tomatoes.

Hope your summer has been a rad one & get planting for autumn!!

Summer in the suburbs

After a very bizarre bunch of weather patterns from severe storms to stinking heat, our garden has emerged from the dust with a few goodies for us during this summer! We have been regularly harvesting black beauty, yellow, rond de nice & crookneck zucchinis, squash, tomatoes, non-hearting and hearting lettuce.  We are also patiently watching 4 pumpkins take on some gnarly shapes in our back veg patch, and it’s been great to kick back with a beer in hand and watch our garden piranha stalk the backyard.

We have also discovered a few new pearls of wisdom:

Since we pulled out a few of the old overgrown trees- we found that our back fence needs replacing, so that’ll be the next project on the cards, after all the trees are torn down. Summer has also seen its fair share of lovely visitors help us christen our new digs, some amazing concerts and music festivals, alongside lots of colour bursting out around our garden with Marigolds, Alyssum and Sunflowers making an appearance. Also, after a few short months of feeding our 1000 worms their regular vegie-scrap frappe, our Worm Farm is finally becoming productive, producing a whole lotta worm juice for us on a weekly basis, which we add to our potted plants and veg to help them grow faster than Justin Bieber fans. We’ve added the second tier of our  RelnWorm Factory for our worms to move up into, so hopefully it won’t be long till we can raise our seedlings using some rich worm compost!

So now that our busy Summer is officially over, and Autumn is here, the next plantings on the cards for us include: more Broccoli Silverbeet & Pak Choy, Cabbage, Onion, Orach (Mountain Spinach) Carrot and Kale. Hope your patch is rocking this coming Autumn!