Monday, April 26, 2010

The Ballarat Harvest Festival






Last week the Ballarat community Gardens had their annual harvest festival, I took this as a fantastic opportunity to go and visit some exciting garden plots that people had veggies and plants in to pick up some tips and to taste some yummy home cooked food.

We went there around lunchtime and I ordered 3 delicious vegetarian wood fired Pizza baked in the gardens clay built oven. Tasty! I then tried some roasted chestnuts, they were an interesting taste as Ivé never tried them before, you received them got off the fire and they are kind of black but basically the skin is simply peeled back and the nut is easily eaten, it kind of tasted a little like potato to me.

I brought some lovely (sweet!!) quince jelly and the plan was to make some homemade scones that afternoon, but I became too busy weeding the veggie garden and ended up not making them but I have noticed the boys have been using the jam for toast so it must be ok!

The older boys had some fruit salad from a stall while Kyan my 4 year old was transfixed the whole time listening to a group of older ladies doing some story telling, sitting on cushions and looking like he was having fun!

For me though the fun part was checking out all the plants and garden plots that people had, I got some great idea's one of which being to lay sawdust down between the beds to hinder probably weeds but I suspect this is done to prevent snails from slithering up onto the beds! What a great idea! Certainly one that I will be using in my own garden.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

It's not all about gardening!








Self sustainability is not all about gardening, there are different levels of self sustainability from not letting a thing leave your property and not buying from outside to simply recycling and growing your own veggies,I think on some level we all try to be as self sustainable as we possibly can in this day and age knowing what damage we have already done to the planet.

I started by using cloth nappies 11 years ago, of course we were already re-cycling and a year later we brought some chickens to stop buying into the whole egg production scene. Then the Veggie garden came and the questions on using water for the nappies to wash which led to us buying a water tank and storing all our grey water to be pumped out back onto the garden.

Now we have quite a big veggie garden, we now have 4 water tanks and they grey water tank. We haven't brought eggs for 10 years and we sell too quiet a few neighbours we compost as much as we possibly can and use all our own manure from the chickens and rabbits, and all our cleaning products are the simple bi carb/vinegar and eucalyptus oil. I hand weed everything so no poisons are used which while the down side to that is it's hugely time consuming, ALL the weeds and grasses get re-fed back to the chickens so are completely recycled.

So that is self sustainability for us, trying to be responsible for the waste we are causing in the world, trying to take the cargo bike for groceries and walk and ride the bike when possible, meeting the kids halfway from school so that car isn't taken out all time time and trying to get those extra groceries while already out on another trip while down in town.

Something we do have is a wood heater and as I loathe using chemicals for anything we have come up with a way to use all those dozens of toilet rolls we go through each week and used up lint in the dryer. We also run 2 businesses from home and have many documents that need to be shredded to privacy reasons, what to do with all that shredded paper? We stuff the toilet rolls and use them as firelighters! This saves us buying fire starters which are smelly toxic smelling. They work really well, we also add pine cones which are gathered up from the local park only 4 door from us, that fall down every year.

Ivé posted some pictures of what we use for the wood fire and the lint pile that only takes me about 2 weeks to gather and the amount of fire starters I get per lint empty.
















Saturday, April 10, 2010

Worm Farms
















About 6 months ago we decided to buy a worm farm, we already had a compost but it was full and we also had a massive black compost for the dog poo and wood fire ash and still we seemed to have way to many fruit peelings and waste that the chickens were not eating such as citrus, avocado, potato peelings. Now of course we have the rabbits and when indoors they have a litter tray too which is simply mulched paper that also needs to be composted so we decided to get the worms.

Your local Bunnings usually has all you need to start a successful worm farm and it's really easy and great fun for the kids to get involved with, mine loved the whole thing from the coir mulchy messy briquette you pop in a bucket for the worms to live in in the lower layer of their pen to the depositing of food each week and the noise the farm makes now their are literally 1,000's of worms chewing away at the food! Added bonus of course the rich liquid worm poo tea that can be slightly diluted and put on seedling for that added boost in nutrients!
There are a few different ways to start a worm farm but basically you need 3 levels, I was rather tempted to try with 3 polystyrafoam boxes that I would have been able to get free from the green grocer and build that farm that way, but I wasn't really too sure exactly what was required to keep the worms happy so went the more commercial route. We brought 1,000 worms + many castings included in the packet from Bunnings the cost being about $25 and then a large black 3-4 tier farm for the worms and the medium that the worms live in is included. You place that in a bucket with about 9 litres of water and this makes it moist for the worms then tip in and away they go!
I noticed over Summer the population really dropped and I have no idea if they went to the very bottom of the pen, it ends up quiet heavy after putting all that food in but it's April now and my gosh the population had exploded, they are so many I have taken some pictured but when you lift the initial lid and turn the food slightly there are hundreds all looped around each other, very exciting! I put rabbit poo, paper, newspaper, fruit peelings, apparently you can also add dog poo, although we had a separate composting bin for that.
Apparently it is not a good idea to add meat as this can very quickly attract flies and maggots, we did get small vinegar flies but no maggots thank goodness!! I added pretty much most of the plums that I had picked to early this year and they seemed to love those too.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The finished product
















Of course when talking about the veggie garden there is never a finished product! However for this season I have planted all 6 beds out and added some seedlings to pots with other plants in them just to fill the space and now it's all feeding them, weeding the beds, will add some pea straw when the seeds grow and the seedling get bigger, keeping the snails off them and bugs and then of course harvesting them. Then the wonderful cycle begins again!

Before Easter I pulled out the yellow zucchini and the golden nugget pumpkin plants and split the 2 tier bed to create another bed for the onions, I added mushroom compost and cow manure to one bed for the leeks, white, red and brown onions and spring onions and then just added some lime and turned the soil for the parsnips, carrots, turnips and radish. I used seed for all those plants and have noticed the soil seems to be very water repellent and it was from the bottom of the 2 tier bed so it will be interesting to see if they come up ok.

Carrots do not like recent manure or mollycoddling but they do like fairly friable soil and mine seems a little too clayish but we shall see.

All plants discarded from last season are given to the chickens and while turning the soil and moving it to the new beds I found many cockchaffer larvae (no it isn't any sort of reference to male underwear) rather a turns into a beetle that chomps through plant roots and grass roots so I threw the lot to the chooks who were wrapped with a tasty morsel for afternoon tea! I still have some pots with coriander and endive coming up, but as the days are getting shorter the growth is really slowing, along with some garlic chives, might have to move them inside and see if some indoor heat keeps them alive for longer.
Hope you all had a great Easter, such great weather here in Victoria anyway for gardening!










While away camping the other week, Rocky the rougue escaping Hamburg managed to escape into the veggie garden and I am so pleased to say she did minimal damage due to the bamboo sticks! She really couldn't turn the soil at all, and I have found the black birds have stayed of the garden too!










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