Thursday, April 28, 2011

April 2011 - farm update

Earlier this year we hatched two batches of chicks.  From the first batch we got one pullet and two cockerels, all White Leghorns.  From the the second batch we got five cockerels and three pullets, one each was Rhode Is Red and the rest White Leghorns.  They have been living outside for a while now, one batch in each cage.  Its nearly time now for the pullets to join the full grown hens in the big cages.  Its never a good idea to put one hen into a cage with other hens that she doesn't know, particularly when the majority are larger, as she'll get picked on, so we decided to rearrange the babies now so they can get to know each other early on and join the big girls as a group of four - safety in numbers!  So we now have a pen of pullets and a pen of cockerels.
Six little cockerels getting fat (and feisty) for the pot

Four shy hens getting to know each other before the join the main flock
We are only getting 3-4 eggs a day from all 12 of the big hens.  This is because the weather has got colder and the days have got shorter.  Most of them are now moulting (loosing feathers and regrowing some nice warm feathers for winter), so they aren't too interested in laying eggs.  We are hoping egg production will go back to normal in spring, so we can hatch some more babies and keep our flock going.

Meanwhile, in the garden, I trimmed back the Poor Man's Bean plants because they were shading the peas (one has a stalk about 2 cm diameter, these are serious bean plants).  The beans seem to have taken the hint and are now producing a ridiculous amount of beans, about a colander full a day!  I've been cutting them up and freezing them and giving them away to anyone I can think of!  So the lesson is, if something is not producing well, cut it back hard.  If it dies its no loss because it wasn't producing well anyway, but chances are it will perk up and bear more fruit that you can use.

I cut back the bean plants, not that you can tell!
The peas don't seem to be very happy.  I never have much success with peas, but I love them, so I battle on each season, trying to get a decent crop.  Any tips would be much appreciated.

The peas don't look happy (can you even see them?)
I do seem to be having success with my Winter Squash.  Actually I'm not sure what it is exactly, I think its Winter Squash.  And if it is Winter Squash I have no idea what that will actually look or taste like.  I am waiting for the stems to die off (like a pumpkin) and then we will harvest the fist one, if it doesn't take over the garden first!

A Winter Squash (maybe!)

The Winter Squash is taking over the garden from the outside.....
.......and from the inside (note, this is one plant!)
As I'm sick of planting things and then not even being sure exactly what they are, I decided to make an effort and start writing things down!  I can't believe how lazy I have been up until now, but it looks terrible when I write this blog and I don't even know what I planted!  Anyway, when I planted seeds the other day (actually on the 11/4, isn't it useful to write it down?), I actually recorded what varieties of seeds I planted, so I can record whether they germinated and get rid of the old ones that were no good.  So far I can see that the new Heritage silverbeet and broccoli seeds have sprouted, but the saved marigold and broccoli seeds might be getting a bit old.
I've decided to start keeping a record of what I planted and when.
Some of the broccoli seeds have germinated,
but no marigolds and not much silverbeet.
The dogs are getting on really well, they are currently lying in front of the fire together.  Cheryl has been "helping" with some painting though and managed to get white paint on her tail and her back.  Her massive bushy tail is out of control!
Cheryl has been helping with painting, she's covered in white splodges!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Making Easiyo yoghurt

Yoghurt is very good for your digestion (more here), but the supermarket products are expensive and high in sugar.  They often add all sorts of artificial flavours, colours and thickeners, which are completely unnecessary.  I make my own yoghurt using an Easiyo kit.  This is still kind of cheating and I should really just use local milk or milk powder (as the Easiyo packets come all the way from New Zealand) and yoghurt culture, but this is so easy (foolproof!), I've been too lazy to change so far!


Here's what to do:

1. Put about 1.2 L of water in the jug to boil.

2. Half fill the plastic container with cold water and add the Easiyo packet.  I use natural, as its milk powder and bacteria only, no additives!


3. Stir in some honey, about 3 'fork-fulls' will do!  And stir it all up.  Then top up the container with cold water.



4. Pour the boiling water into the insulated container and put the yoghurt container inside.  Screw on the lid and leave for about 8-12 hours.




5. Take the yoghurt container out of the insulated container and put it in the fridge (sometimes the hot water is still ok for doing the dishes).  I take a small container of yoghurt to work for lunch every day.  You can mix in fruit if you want, but I enjoy it plain as well.


More about yoghurt:
Do you make yoghurt?  What method do you use?

Monday, April 11, 2011

How much to plant??

When we first started gardening, it was hard to know how much and how often to plant and we often ended up with big gluts of certain veges and then nothing at all to eat from the garden. We were also reluctant to not use seedlings that sprouted, even though we didn’t really have room for them. Once we had about 20 tomato plants squashed into a 1m square area of the garden. They were too close together, none of the plants fruited and they all got some kind of wilt and died! Now I have learnt to leave room between the plants and eat/compost/give away any that don’t fit. Since then we’ve got better at knowing how many of each plant we need to feed us and how much we can fit in the garden at a time. The amount you need to plant depends on your appetite, your garden area and your water availability, here's what we've found works for us.
Too many tomatoes squashed together
- they didn't do well!
Tomatoes: As I’ve mentioned before, I love my cherry tomato plant, I think you need at least one of these all the time to keep up a supply.  They can go into the freezer for use later, or be dried, so it doesn’t matter if you produce too many.  As for large tomatoes, don’t plant more that you can fit in your garden, as they don’t do well if planted too closely together.  Four to six at a time are plenty to keep us supplied with fresh tomatoes over summer.  If you get them started in pots at the end of winter, you usually have time for more than one crop.
These tomatoes have more room and did well
(eight plants in 1m x 2m area)
Zucchinis: At one stage I planted six zucchini plants at once.  They produced one zucchini every couple of days, so there was no way we could eat them all!  They don’t store well fresh (although I have tried dehydrating them), so if you don’t have anyone to give them to, it’s a waste to plant too many at once.  I ended up making soup with them, and it wasn’t very nice!  Now I have realised that two plants producing at a time will be plenty to feed us.  Also one decent button squash plant is all you need to have enough squash (plant two in case one doesn't do well).


Six zucchinis are too much as you get about one large
zucchini every couple of days from each plant!
Beans: One or two “Poor Man’s Beans” plants are plenty for use.  The “normal” beans don’t produce as much, so you need four to six plants at a time to keep a good supply.  When we accumulate an over supply of beans, I cut them up into 2 cm lengths and put them in the freezer for later, and when I fill up the freezer I have to start giving them to the neighbours, but that's ok because they make goats cheese :)


One or two poor man's beans are plenty,
we still have extra for freezing.
Silverbeet: Four to six plants have been sufficient to keep us supplied with silverbeet.  They are slow to get started, so you have to remember to plant a couple more plants every few months to keep a constant supply. I haven't found a way to keep silverbeet, but I've heard that it can be dried and sprinkled into soups/stews to add some flavour.  And I see that Emma has been freezing it,which I will try when I build up a decent supply again (see more here).




Spring onions: you can plant heaps of these all around the garden and pick them whenever you need some for dinner, they keep growing for ages and eventually they flower and produce seeds, but you can still eat them, just cut off the seed head.

Spring onions with seed heads, you can just cut them off
when they're ready and still eat the onion later!
Mini capsicums: 2-3 plants are plenty once they get going, and any extra fruit can go in the freezer for later.  They are more pest resistant than the big capsicums.


Mini capsicums can be frozen and used later
How do you know how much to plant in your vege garden?

Monday, April 4, 2011

Summer harvest, Winter planting

This weekend I harvested the last of the tomatoes and pulled out the plants.  I still have heaps of beans and squash, so I've left them in the ground for now, but its time to start thinking about winter.  The main crops for winter here are broccoli (too humid in summer, too many bugs!), silver beet and peas.



The last of the tomatoes and one giant button squash!

giant button squash, oops!  Still ok to eat, but large seeds aren't so nice!
My yellow button squash is still going,
this is the correct size for buttons!
Curcubits are taking over the garden!  This is a "winter squash"
so I have to wait for the squash to ripen before picking them
Winter squash (I think!), not sure what it will be like, this is a new one for me!
I've cheated and bought some pea seedlings from the market.  I made a rough structure for them to climb up using chicken wire and some tomato stakes, I tried to find a sunny spot for them, as they don't do well in the shade.  I'm letting them get a bit bigger before I plant them or the slugs will eat them!

I'm going to plant some broccoli seeds as I saved heaps of seeds from last season.  And I'll plant some more silver beet, as we only have two large plants at the moment.  I was excited to see broccoli on the front of Organic Gardener magazine when it came in the mail today, with some nice tips (the one I noted was to check the soil pH is around 6 and use molasses spray for the caterpillars, will definitely be trying that).

waiting for these peas to get bigger before I plant them
(for fear of the dreaded slugs!)
I've made a space for the peas where the silver beet was,
and they can climb up this scrap of chicken mesh.
Note the beans still going wild in the background!
 My herbs are doing well, I keep most of them in pots so they don't take over the garden, especially the mint. I love being able to pick fresh herbs to use in cooking.  The only one missing at the moment it parsley and I have a couple of small plants growing in another area.  They take so long to grow big!
My herb garden includes (clockwise from left) basil, mint,
peppermint, mini capsicum, rosemary, sage, comfrey, oregano, ginger and thyme
Some tomatoes decided to sprout from some compost I spread around, so I've transplanted them to a more sensible area of the garden, even though its not really a good time for tomatoes, it will be too cold soon, I thought I'd give them a chance, seeing as they're so keen!
These tomatoes were keen to grow, so I'm giving them a chance, out of season!
What are you planting this winter??  Like a said previously, we are in a weird climate zone, so I'm still trying to figure out what will grow here, any tips?

Never miss a post! Sign up here for our weekly email...

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Suggested Reading