A new Hugel/wicking bed

I have had a Susu banana in a bag that I bought months ago. The poor thing has sat and waited to be planted out for so long it has almost given up hope of becoming a member of the garden. I decided today to make it a space to grow, while I was cleaning up the mess that had evolved around the humpy during the last year of living and working, and working, and working.

There was an old cast iron bath tub that has been previously used as a tub to boil pig carcass’ in (not here of course) sitting in the yard, so we set it up in a convenient position for a garden bed and I started to think about how to fill it with growing medium.

First of all I needed something to absorb water and keep the plant roots out of the slop; sticks and stray bits of wood would do the trick here I thought. I collected a wheelbarrow full of those.

Next I needed something that would fill the gaps between the sticks and break down into a rich soil… eventually. Luckily my daughter had just cleaned out her rabbits, guinea pigs and bird enclosures, so I had tubs full of poop filled paper pellets. This was the perfect pre-compost material, it will break down into soil and filter down between the sticks filling the gaps.

Then it was time to top it all off with potting mix and plant my banana.

She looked so much happier. One of the the billy goats; Mendez, was looking on hopefully, waiting for me to throw weeds over the fence to him.

I also moved one of my potted geraniums onto a makeshift platform on the trailer bed. The scented geraniums are great at repelling insects, so right beside a vegetable bed is a great place for it. As an added bonus, I have taken two pieces of abandoned detritus and made them into a usable garden bed… I love that!!

Everything we have is second or third hand, that’s the way I like it. We make use of the discarded things, we take in the discarded animals, it makes life interesting, and messy. Our humpy is not conventionally beautiful, it never will be, but it is a creative space to be in. Sometimes it is chaos, sometimes it is order, always we are striving to make it home.

Coffee tree update

When I planted out the first coffee tree (read that post here), I didn’t count on rain (that being a rare occurance here these days) and the cement troughs got flooded. The poor little tree didn’t make it through the water logging (the black sugar cane beside it loved the experience). So the second little coffee tree was planted out into a big pot with a deceased guniea fowl in the bottom of it.

This is now a swamp garden. The Black sugar cane seems to enjoy it.
The coffee tree is growing up nicely. It has a few volunteer tomato seedlings under it at the moment. I will move them to a new place when they are a bit bigger.
A gratuitous Melvin photo (just because).

Repotting a family member – Big/paw paw

When Big the rooster died, we buried him in a large pot with a dwarf asexual paw paw planted on top (as we do for all our family). He grew very fast with all that nutrient and soon grew out of his pot. Dwarf paw paws are supposed to grow to about 2 metres tall, but Big has grown to around 3 metres, so Big needed a new home.

We had some truck tire guards that a friend gave us (thanks Judy). I had the idea of bolting them together to make a garden bed some time ago and when Big needed a larger pot I thought it was time to act on the idea.

My sometimes present partner and my daughter screwed the truck guards together for me while I was at work one day and I came home to find the big pot (or garden bed) together and placed ready to plant. I filled the base with sheep compost and bought potting mix (it took a lot more soil than I thought) and re-potted Big the rooster and his paw paw into the bed along with a hen named Burger that had conveniently died the previous night. Now Big and Burger can grow amazing paw paws and enjoy their next incarnation as a tree.

The paw paw is beginning to flower, I think. I have never grown paw paw before, so I’m not really sure if the little buds are flowers or more leaves. Either way, the tree is growing really well in it’s new pot.

With a lot of help from friends and neighbours, we are beginning to get on top of the work around the humpy again. Both myself and my partner have had some health issues lately, but we are healing now. I feel so lucky to live in a community where people help each other, we have so many friends who are willing to lend a hand.

Passionfruit harvest update

I am still waiting for a tsunami of passionfruit; it can’t be much longer. The vine has flowered, and flowered, and flowered until at last it is FULL of fruit.

The fruit has grown to a huge size, but it is still green. This morning I noticed a slight change in colour, but it could just be wishful thinking… what do you think?

In other news; a pumpkin vine has popped up outside the yard fence and continued to defy the sheep, geese and wandering mower to produce it’s first male flowers. We may yet harvest some pumpkins this Winter.

Growing coffee

Photo by Chevanon Photography on Pexels.com

Recently I watched a news piece about an impending world coffee shortage due to climate change. This got me thinking about how much I depend on coffee (a lot) and how I would be unable to function for a few days (maybe longer) if I had to give it up. I gave up coffee once, years ago, and the detox is hard and unpleasant. Because I like to do something instead of just worry about it, I decided to grow some coffee trees (the other option was give up coffee again, and that isn’t ideal). Growing coffee trees gives me an interesting learning experience in the future when it comes time to process the harvest. I went and had a look at our fairly local nursery for all things interesting (garden related); Daley’s Fruit Tree Nursery their online shop is amazing. They had a dwarf coffee variety called Catuai; so I ordered 2 plants.

While I waited for them to arrive, I did some reading about their care and growing.

Coffee is a rainforest edge species, meaning it likes to have a lot of sun, but protection from the hot Western afternoon sun. It likes to be watered regularly (who doesn’t?) and it is a fairly heavy feeder. The variety I chose is small enough to live in large pots, but I want to see how they grow in the ground in my garden too, so they will need some improved soil to get growing in and a fairly sheltered position.

We recently had one of our old ducks die (she had a good long life and died fairly peacefully), so I buried her in an old cement laundry tub next to one of our geese. I decided that this was the place to plant one of my coffee trees. I hope the pot is big enough and that the nutrients from Puddles (the duck) is acceptable to this little tree. We will see where the other tree ends up.

Accidentally making the lettuce last longer in the fridge

Some of the lovely greens in the trailer bed

The trailer bed is bursting with greens, it is so easy to stroll out and pick a salad base. Of course, I prefer to pick every few days and keep the leaves in the fridge. I’m lazy that way. The problem with keeping the leaves in the fridge is that they go slimy and bad by the second day, and then I need to pick more. That is a problem I may have accidentally found a solution for.

Let me explain… The lettuce and other greens are watered using washing water (the used water from the washing machine) and the remnants of the duck and chicken water pots when we refresh them. This means that the greens have a lot of unsavory bacteria on them (and silt), so the leaves need to be washed well and disinfected somehow.

The day’s haul of fresh lettuce leaves

I wash the leaves in a tub of water (which is then poured back onto the garden) to remove any dirt and silt. Then I soak them in a water and vinegar solution (1/2 cup vinegar to 5 litres of water). I use my home made vinegar for this, and it seems to work.

Soaking in vinegar solution

I use vinegar for all my cleaning; in a spray for kitchen surfaces, in the washing, as a floor spot cleaner, as an emergency bath addative (when I’m really smelly), as a medicinal additive in the animal waters, you name it. Using it to clean bacteria off food is a logical step.

Draining out the excess water

Then I discovered that the vinegar rinse keeps the lettuce fresh in the fridge for a week. You have to be sure to dry as much water off the leaves as possible and line the bag or container with a paper towel though (I keep trying to think of a washable version of paper towels for this).

Chopped lettuce ready for the fridge

I am so happy with this little discovery that I wanted to pass on the tip. A vinegar soak not only makes sure the lettuce is safe to eat, it also makes it last much longer in the fridge, and it is another use for my home made vinegar.

Lots more to pick

Making smudge sticks

There are a lot of herbs in the garden at the moment and I the need to use them (of course). I have made a few tea mixes (made by drying herbs and crumbling them together) and dried some culinary herbs, but there are still a lot of herbs I haven’t used… enter smudge sticks.

Smudge sticks can be used as part of a ritual cleanse of a space or person, they can be used to encourage sleep, or dreams or even love, but the smudge sticks I felt moved to make are for protection.

Herbs have many layers of use to humans; they can be used as food, as medicine, in the production of other things and most also have a magical use, it is the magical use I am tapping into to when making smudge sticks.

I wandered around the garden harvesting herbs… today I was drawn to the mugwort (or cronewort), lavender and rosemary. I looked these up in my handy magical herbal to find that all three can be used in protection spells.

I used three leaves or sprigs each of the three herbs to make a total of three smudge sticks. Three is a special number, and it gives me a nice sense of completion to use three of everything.

I stacked my bundles together and tied the ends with cotton thread.

Then I wrapped the string around the bundles from bottom to top and from top to bottom again. The wrapping needs to be fairly tight and the end knot is tied using the loose tail of the first knot.

The neat little bundles are then dried by putting them on a tray in the griller of the stove (not going), so that when I use the oven, the heat rises up into the griller and dries the bundles. It only takes a night to dry herbs for tea making, but I think it will take two (or maybe three) days to dry these little wrapped bundles.

Finally the bundles are used to burn and waft smoke around the humpy while I hold the image of our home being safe from all things harmful.

Preparing for the passion fruit harvest

After the bumper crop of mulberries this year, and the joy of having such an abundance of fruit, I decided to prepare in advance for the passion fruit harvest (just in case it is similarly huge). The vine is beginning to flower and if there are any pollinators at all around, we should have piles of yummy fruit to use.

The passionfruit vine is planted on top of the transpiration pit for the biogas effluent, so it gets a lot of nutrient rich water. The dragonfruit is planted on the same bed, I am hoping for a big yield there too.

I plan to store a lot of the pulp by scraping it into ice cube trays and freezing them to be used in recipes at a later date. I also plan to make cakes, slices and passionfruit butter with it. If the yield is large enough, I will make a batch or two of wine as well.

Look out for posts about modified versions of; Dead Fly Slice (you read that right), passion fruit butter, passion fruit self saucing pudding, vegan version of marinated chicken with passion fruit sauce and a good old passion fruit tart.

Plants in the garden- port wine magnolia

We have a single Port wine magnolia in the garden. Of course it has a story attached; if the plants in your garden don’t have a story, you are missing an essential element of gardens. My eldest daughter loves the smell of Port wine magnolia (as do we all here), when she was young she called them bubblegum trees and would go looking for the source of the delightful smell if we happened to be near one in Spring. A friend started some from cuttings for me many years ago and I bought them home and looked for places to plant them.

My daughter wanted to plant them outside her bedroom window so the smell would blow into the room on hot Spring nights. I wanted to plant them near the gate so I could smell them as I went in and out of the yard. In the end, we planted one under the window and one by the gate. Of course, the one by the gate was eaten by a passing sheep, but the under window shrub is still going strong.

It began to flower this year, while my daughter was at home (luckily)

The poor little thing has managed to live with ducks and chooks running loose under it. The base is mulched with rocks and the position means that any left over shower water goes to it.

This is an example of a shrub we have planted purely for pleasure. In the garden, as in life, pleasure is important to add flavour to life; without things that give us pleasure, life is fairly boring.

An imposter in the garden- blue passionflower

When we planted our passiofruit it had a volunteer seedling in the pot. Of course I left it there and planted them both on the transpiration pit for the biogas system. They both grew strongly and eventually one started flowering. The flower looked like a passiofruit flower to me, so I eagerly awaited some fruit forming; this never happened, the flowers just withered and fell off.

After a lot of googling and reading in my library, I discovered the blue passionflower; a weed in Australia. My flowers look just like the photos, and I was disappointed.

The flowers are beautiful, but the vine is very invasive and the leaves and unripe fruit are poisonous. So the vine has to go. We cut the stem at the ground and pulled down as much of it as we could. The vine was stuffed into garbage bags and left in the sun to die. I plan to empty the lot into the mulch pit eventually, but I want to be sure it’s dead first.

It looks like we have a few years of pulling up seedlings in front of us as it is a very invasive weed. On the positive side, the actual passionfruit vine is getting buds on it now.