Sunday, March 21, 2010

Eating local is eating in season

We've been eating small variations of practically the same meal for the past several weeks and are strangely enjoying the repetition. It feels increasingly right to be eating repetitively and in season like this. Silverbeet and zucchini have been in abundance, so they have constituted the major source of iron and vitamins. Then we have added basil, garlic, wild rocket, eggplant, potatoes, mint, oregano, tomatoes, cucumber, parsley and onions from the garden, eggs from our lovely girls, and a line-caught redfin or two from the nearby lake. What we then add to these meals are the products we are still reliant upon transporting in. There are usually two or three of the following ingredients with any of our evening meals: salt, pepper, butter, balsamic vinegar, brown rice, sour dough rye bread, or pasta.

In order to keep going with relocalising our food into the colder months, the poly-houses also keep going up over the raised beds.

I also planted 200 more of our saved broad bean seeds on the lower side of the swale (near the pitchfork below). This is to improve the soil quality while providing a hardy winter crop.

Our chooks in chook heaven attending to our city neighbours' neglect of their 'investment' property all throughout the fire season. When non-attendance is a blessing in disguise our chooks will be there to capitalise.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Frugality reality

Preparing for the colder months I started work on a new hothouse today. If we can keep the soil warm and the frost off the leaves our vegies will keep growing through the winter. I sharpened the tips of eight vertical garden stakes and fitted some leftover polypipe over them to make four arches. I then went through the wood pile looking for any length of 4.8m timber and found a piece of decking board, which I ripped into four individual pieces. I then attached the quartered lengths horizontally with tek screws, which bit into the polypipe really tightly. I asked the builders next door if I could have the clear plastic sheets they have lying about to cover material as it arrives. The answer was "shortly". Cool. I'll wait. The frosts are still a few weeks off.

I thought I'd also include my bike in this shot and show off the new crate that I fixed to it yesterday. I got the crate at the local markets for a few dollars. The hothouse so far hasn't cost us anything as the materials have been reclaimed from here and there over the years. Like the cellar I'm building for next-to-nix, we're really trying to make this transition with as little capital as possible. Although the main house, with double-glazed windows and solar panels was a major capital outlay, something we often question especially at a time of interest rate rises. Eeeeck!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Sowing and picking

We've had rain on and off today, which has come at a time just after I had added horse manure to the north bank garden and turned it over. It's also a few days after the full moon, so what better time to throw around some tree kale seeds and plant some broad beans, collected and dried from spring last year.

I then picked tonight's dinner veggies in the rain, which we'll have with brown rice and a light smatter of tamari.

To get decent rain in Autumn is a rare and welcome pleasure. Happy birthday Zephy.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

From soil to cellar

I've been obsessing over soil building again and obsessing over building things we need in the garden for little or no cost. Things like a cellar for our preserves and somewhere to keep the tools so we can finish the permie-wwoofer-artist-in-res shed – the Shed of Interrelation.

Every time I get in the car of late I'm accompanied by a highly conscious route and list. I leave rambling and fluffing about for when I'm on my bike; when I'm making my own human generated electricity. This morning I had a small list, which required 4.5 km of driving. I headed first to the local cafe where, for the past two years, they kindly donate us their green scraps. Then I headed to the hardware and picked up two polluting bags of cement to use sparingly. I then drove to the nearby horse school farm and shoveled up 6 chaff bags full of lovely crumbly dry shit. When I returned, together with the woodchips we still have left, I prepared a new compost.

I threw everything into the empty compost bay. The cafe scraps ponged because I haven't collected the bin for over a week. This pong is methane being released. It gets like this because the vegetables and fruit are starved of air. A good soil requires water, air, organic matter and many nutrients and minerals. Composting correctly will stop methane being produced. This is called aerobic composting.

Animal manure, green waste (kitchen scraps) and wood chips make a good recipe for soil production. A small quantity of crushed igneous rock will add iron to the brew.

I dump it all in the compost bay and do a work out with the pitch fork. (You can watch a previous workout here). But if you layer your compost like a lasagna you can save on the heavy, back breaking work.

Once turned through I would normally wet down and wrap it up with a tarpaulin. However, we are expecting rain, so I'll save our water and wrap it up afterwards.

Now I have some more cement I can go back to building the cellar. I'm using gleaned gravel and stone, and making a slip wall by clamping boards to the stumps that hold up our house. The cellar should end up costing about $100, if I'm patient and steady-state about it. We have many apples and nectarines to preserve and store from our neighbour Maria's orchard.