RIP Goldie

Goldie, it would appear, was 9 1/2 years old, which isn’t bad going for a chicken. She came from a breeder down at Rokeby who had hatched the chicks for the display at the Royal Hobart Show. That happens in October each year, and the oldest photo I have is datestamped from January 2003.

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and here she is a little older, with two of the others from the same batch. [Amber the clack one in front is still with us]

Amber and Goldie

Goldie used to like weekend lunches – where possible we take our weekend lunch outside and eat it on the steps at the front of the deck. She’d learnt to sneak up behind us, ready to clean our plates when we put them behind us. She also used to hide in the (outside) laundry to lay her eggs, or climb/fly up onto the bench hopeful that we’d left the lid off the chicken food tub again. Goldie was a Modern Game Bantam, if you were lucky enough to pick her up it was possible for your fingers to touch around her – but then she’d flap and show you how strong she was by pushing and flapping out of your hands.

Her last few days were quiet – I gave her a bit of water through a syringe, but the fact she let me pick her up showed her age. She is now next to a nectarine tree in the new fruit tree area alongside the driveway. A quiet but strong character. Let there be more chickens like you, Goldie Girl.

Weekend gardening

A couple of weeks ago I weeded a couple of  circles, and discovered much of the spinach seed I roughly sprinkled about 8 weeks ago had actually germinated! I’ve not been very lucky with spinach in the past, mollycoddling it in the greenhouse. Which sometimes means erratic watering. Now I’ll direct seed it and forget it.  In another circle I found some of the collards I’d broadcast as well on the basis they’d come up where they were happiest. Good idea to mark a circle when you do this as in another spot I’d been wondering what the rogue brassicas were and pulling them out. Ahem!

Big news – the chickens have started laying again after a few months freeloading rest. Finally!

Green stuff is still growing in the garden, and on the second official day of winter  this self-grown sunflower opened up. We throw grain mix on the lawn for the chickens and this is one seed they must have missed. It’s looking a bit tired now, a month later.

Winter Sunflower

Robin scooped up the lovely rotted mulch from the paths and added it to our resting circle. It was dark, full of worms and practically weed-free. The paths have been topped up from our mulch mountain. This will make a huge difference in the spring – the paths will be less rich for weeds to grow, the paths will be drier underfoot and the berries that will be planted in that circle will love the wood-rich rotted material. Perfect.
Intentional carrots and onions

The worms are happy, there’s enough coriander, borage and forget-me-not seedlings covering the spare space to stop other weeds thank goodness. I did have to pull out excess coriander and english marigolds from the carrots and onion though.
We’re eating lots of granny smith apples (a batch of bottles of stewed ones are in the preserver at the moment). The rabbits get the battered windfalls and prunings (disclaimer, Dutchy has a Fuji apple here)
Dutchy taking a leisurely approach to her work

If you look carefully in the photo below you will spot a rosella also enjoying a granny smith.

Feeding the wildlife

Click to enlarge

And the lemon trees are loaded – I decided to do a bit of gentle pruning, which led to putting a box of lemons out the front as giveaways.
Lemon surplus

Transformation

An old draft waiting to be finished and published…

Anzac Day was spent mainly in the garden

from thisFrom This ......to That...to That

 

Also here’s the pumpkin harvest

Pumpkin Harvest!

 

To be honest, not much has happened in the garden since, but we have plans for the weekend coming. Other parts of life have been dominating.

The Plan? A bit of tidying, checking on the winter veg (which seems to be coming along nicely) and maybe start on the pruning. The rabbits are on standby to help with fruit tree wood.

The last major planting before winter

There are broccolis and cauliflower and lettuces waiting in the greenhouse to be planted out on Anzac Day when the right part of the lunar cycle, a public holiday and space in the garden beds coincide. We spent some lovely time on Saturday playing with the compost bins – emptying mature compost out for use in the garden and refilling a couple of bins with a rich mixture of chook shed litter, shredded comfrey and horse manure.

Using some of the mature compost, I topped off the level of soil around the kiwifruit vines planted in the deck. The cats have been pulling out the mulch around the plants so that they can get down under the desk – adding the compost is a two-angled tactic. Trying to limit their access and therefore stop them pulling the soil from around the roots and also giving the vines a boost before winter.

Elsewhere in the garden we have been picking some beautiful apples, the remains of the tomato crop and feeding the dried out sweetcorn I forgot to pick soon enough to the chickens. The rabbits are gorging themselves on the sweetcorn stalks and some gone-to-seed broccoli plants from the in-laws.

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Mowing the lawns is like a 5 minute whirlwind tidying session inside the house and a quick vacuum, suddenly the garden with it’s tired summer crops looks more in order, and slightly under control. The tomato plants are hanging upside down from the garden arches allowing the last of the fruit a chance to ripen.

Perspective shift

When Leigh visited recently, he commented on the strawberries growing in the lawn in the front yard and knelt down to eat some, fresh from the plants. I’ve been seeing grass growing as weeds in between the strawberries and criticising my lax maintenance in the front garden. The grass has had the advantage of making the berries a bit less visible to the birds as well.

Another perspective shift happened a long time ago. I don’t ‘weed’ the vegie garden anymore. I collect fresh surplus green stuff for the rabbits.

 

Wildlife

Rescued Skink

Our previous cat Rosie was not much of a hunter. Milly and Ruby however are enthusiastic and skilled young hunters. I have decided it may be better to let them play with the (still alive) skinks they bring inside. This, I reason, means fewer skinks die overall. If I save the skinks by taking them back outside, the cats just go hunting again. 5 was the record number of skinks we counted brought inside in one summer day. A few weeks ag we came home to a living space covered in feathers and some blood and bone booster for the compost, previously known as a dove. I’m a bit embarrassed by the decimation of wildlife – it’s not even during night hours when some people keep their animals inside. The cats have received a few lectures about it being OK to catch blackbirds, sparrows and starlings. They seem to prefer the pretty ones.

Harvest and Preserve

After a hiatus over summer, we have started preserving again. Presently we have several boxes of tomato passata and concentrate, some mexican chilli (mince & beans), jam and apple butter waiting to be labelled and tucked under the house.

Tonight’s dinner included the late summer delight – the humble zucchini – after a hiatus of a couple of weeks they are producing again.

Sunday brought a morning of soaking rain and it was the right phase of the moon so I stocked up on a bunch of brassica,celery and lettuce seedlings from Hobart Kitchen Gardens at the farmer’s market. By the time I planted out in the afternoon I needed a sunhat. Only one cabbage seedling was victim of the turkeys. They are getting over the knee high fences into the vegie beds and annoying me I must say. I think the solution is to look at fencing the perimeter of the vegie garden and getting the chooks to concentrate on the areas under the fruit trees. Walking in the garden tonight everything I planted is looking happy and settled.

Not my frog - but something like this

Something that Milly the cat has shown me – we have frogs again in the garden. I know this because she very carefully catches them and brings them inside. Last week I thought there was a ball of fluff on the floor at the foot of the bed. It was a frog that had been under the bed. Must vacuum more often. If the cat didn’t kill the frog, the dust surely would. When I picked it up the frog blinked at me so I popped it back outside in the waterplants. The one she brought in on Sunday night was shrieking! That too was untouched so returned to outside. I haven’t yet paused to take a photo as the cats are too interested.

Note to self: must get out in the garden with the camera.

Preserving Day

Today Robin, Stephen and Peter were getting together for another EDIT day. At the last day Robin had learnt all about Stephen and Amanda’s urban foraging undertakings. Check out their blog Gourmet Gatherer for loads of inspiration about what can be found all around us and some tips on foraging.
EDIT Preserving spinoff

So it seemed like a great idea to combine coding and preserving. After lunch on the deck in the only decent patch of sun all day, we headed inside to the kitchen and cooked up a storm. Amanda and I swapped ideas and recipes and tips. A jam tasting took place mid-afternoon – Damson Jam (which came with a cute Sesame Street fabric lid cover), Pear and Vanilla Jam and Quince, Cardamon and Orange Marmalade.
EDIT Preserving spinoff

This afternoon we made:

  • Mixed Berry Jam combining elderberries, blackberries and mulberries
  • Pickled Beetroot with Cumin and Dill
  • Spiced Apple Butter
  • Mexican Mince and Beans

I reminded myself of the need to have the temperature of the water in the pressure cooker the same as the jars going in. I lost two large jars thanks to not paying attention to that today.
We agreed there needs to be a repeat sometime for more of the same. Although next time we might attempt to keep the benches a little neater!
EDIT Preserving spinoff

Observing the garden

Sometimes in walking through the garden all I can see are overgrown plants needing to come out and gaps needing to be filled.

Other times I see abundance and raucous growth.

At the moment I am seeing tomatoes needing to be tied up, corn not quite ready to eat and patches scraped bare where the turkeys dug up my carefully-grown-from-seed seedlings.

Thank god for the seedling man at the market. I can at least fill the gaps while I ponder higher fences around the veggie beds.

Summer Update

There’s been little activity in the garden over the past month really. I’ve been a little distracted by my obsession re-found love of sewing and quite a few trips away.

Picking beans and zucchinis for dinner and encouraging the tomatoes to ripen with kind words. Playing with the hose, badged as ‘watering the garden’.

Admiring the pumpkin which has made it’s home on top of the straw shed so we can admire it from the kitchen window. Sighing at how dry it is over on the back bank where the pumpkins over there will not be doing much at all other than faking near death regularly. The trees in their giant holes filled with compost are doing so much better. Just a case of more organic matter needed, so we will keep putting compost out there and do some mulching sometime. Next summer should be better. The pumpkins on the side of the driveway are doing a lot better than last year – they have had another year of compost and mulch and watering so it is possible.

Corn

The corn is growing by the day and started to form cobs and spikes on top.
Last night I planted out and potted on the seedlings from my 30 December seed planting. The beans, spring onions and peas were ready to go out, the silver beet just about. Most of the others (brassicas, basil, lettuce etc) got potted on to develop some more size before being subjected to the vagaries of my attention. The thing I found most interesting about planting out into the garden beds? There’s quite a few pockets in the garden beds for the next round of planting. Which means we have the space to continue the earlier than normal (for us) plant out of autumn/winter veg supplies. In past years we’ve struggled with the cross over time between summer and later seasons meaning the broccoli has gone in far too late in previous years to get to a decent size. Adding the extra garden space is really going to show it’s benefits in autumn.

All about Food

Tagged by Cardinal Cyn

1. What, or who inspired you to start a blog?

The inspiration for this blog came from a gardening notebook I have written in for several years. Being an inveterate planner, I like to have somewhere to record the plans and find them again later. I liked the idea of being able to search easily on past posts, and also being able to share what we are doing at Cato Garden Farm.

2. Who is your foodie inspiration?

Mother Nature. Does that sound twee? A lot of the food I adore is about simple, mighty fine ingredients put together with care and love.

3. Your greasiest, batter-spattered food/drink book is?

Well, not the greasiest, but the most used on a regular basis would have to be Jamie’s 30 minute meals. Obviously Jamie has a special time machine or reeeeallly slow clock, but I love the idea of opening it up and having the whole meal sorted – main, side, dessert all in a couple of pages.

4. Tell us all about the best thing you have ever eaten in another country, where was it, what was it?

Memorable meals – rillettes on baguettes in a park in Paris. Bought from a food market and eaten in the sun. Little open sandwiches in Copenhagen. Goat’s cheese Gouda in Amsterdam from the local market. Porcini mushroom pasta in cream sauce in Florence. Fish curry on roti for breakfast in Singapore.

(so where did “5″ get to???)

6. What is the one kitchen gadget you would ask Santa for this year (money no object of course)?

A kitchen fairy to tidy away the mess of cooking and buy the essentials like muesli and coffee beans before we run out.

7. Who taught you how to cook?

My mother. Thank You!!!!!!!!!

8. I’m coming to you for dinner what’s your signature dish?

We might do a selection of curries, or in winter roast pork, definitely sorbet for dessert.

9. What is your guilty food pleasure?

Rice crackers with salted butter and peanut butter.

10. Reveal something about yourself that others would be surprised to learn?

I can’t grow spinach. And I want to! Maybe I will get it right in 2012?