Friday, March 23, 2012

More on Movable Chook Runs and Garlic

Well I got my garlic in on the autumn equinox as instructed by Hazel. It meant I had to dig up all my basil to make room and it was a beautiful warm sunny day. So it went completely against my instincts. But I did it. And I made a load of pesto to freeze. Fortunately, the weather has now turned drizzly and nippy and how I would expect autumn to be.
Loads of basil
After some deliberation, I ended up getting the bulbs from New Gippsland Seeds and Bulbs as suggested by Liz at Suburban Tomato. They were very reasonably priced and arrived the day after ordering which was most impressive. So I am keeping my fingers crossed and following as much of your garlic advice as my lazy bones will permit. So thank you to all who made comments and suggestions. And good luck with all of your garlic growing.

Mrs Bok and L from 500m2 requested a little more info and pictures following my chook run post a couple of weeks ago. You might remember that I'd decided to move them around a bit in the garden to help out with my weeding. Previously, their run had been along the back fence and under the trampoline. But they'd pecked and scratched that area bare. My silkies can't fly so I really only need a little stake and some chicken wire to make movable runs for them.

Here's their house. Around this area I'm using the child proof fence I had to keep the monkeys out of the kitchen when they were toddlers.
Their run now goes under that slide and makes a narrow path in front of this wood shed. More adventurous chooks would surely have a snoop about in that wood shed, but my silkies are timid so they stick to the suggested routes.
The veggie patch directly in front of the shed is where I planted the garlic and the patch in the foreground has some broccoli and cauliflower seedlings with room for more later. At some point when the veggies are done, I could extend the fence to around these patches and set the chooks free in it to clean up and do a bit of fertilising.

For now, the chooks can wander up the path to this big basket (which did house strawberries until next door's goats came and gobbled them).
And into this big patch of weeds. Where Wokee sits and watches. Those chooks look remarkably like her. Unfortunately, they are not in the least interested in being pounced on and played with which is what she does when she is with them. I wish one of them would give her a good peck so she'd keep her distance but for now she sees them as her fluffy playthings.
The chooks do seem to be gobbling at weeds and scratching about all day long. Even in the rain.
But I must say they've barely made a dent in this weed patch in the two weeks since they've been set free in it. They are rather slow lawn mowers. I do wish they'd get a wriggle on because there are even more weeds that I can't be bothered pulling out behind the pond. If they get a bit better at their job I'll just keep relocating the fences.

Monday, March 19, 2012


I live in a very fashionable suburb. I didn't move here when it was fashionable mind you. When Monkey Man bought our house 17 years ago it was cheap and lots of people didn't even know where it was. But now we're super fashionable.

You can't walk about our village without tripping over a cafe chair and falling into a frothy vanilla chai latte. Which I won't complain about because I've become rather partial to a frothy vanilla chai latte. But my suburb has become rather too upmarket. Recently another funky gift store opened. The type of shop you visit if you have a lot of money and need to buy a quirky pressie for someone who has everything. And I was having a stickybeak at the quirky over-priced gifts when I noticed a little section of garden products. And my eyeballs nearly popped right out of my head.

A stick to poke a hole in your soil and deposit a seed in being sold for $45! That's right a stick. In garden circles it's called a "dibber". Admittedly it was a perfectly lovely stick that would not look out of place in a contemporary art gallery. It had a lovely smooth wooden handle with a lovely shaped metal stick bit to do the poking. And I'm sure it would do the job well. Certainly just as well as my finger.

And there was an "eco" newspaper pot kit. Priced at $49. Now I need a bit of convincing to get my head around how they can promote an over-priced kit made from "sustainable" wood as being good for the environment. 'Cos I know well and truly that you can make those newspaper pots from any old glass you've got hanging about on your shelf. But it did get me thinking that it was about time I made some of those newspaper pots I've been reading about in blogs all over the place and plant some seeds before it gets too late in the season. So I reminded myself of how to do it on Christine's Slow Living Essential's blog. Of course I got a bit bored and conked out way too early and didn't make nearly enough. But I just re-used some old pots for the rest of the seeds I wanted to plant.

And then I had a bit of a novice dilemma about where to put the seed pots at this time of the year. So I settled on the newly re-located mini greenhouse. Which I think was a big mistake. I'm pretty sure I cooked those seeds 'cos it was hotter than a bread oven when I poked my hand in yesterday. Sigh.

Now it is just as well that my suburb is still chock-full of very friendly, community-minded, unfashionable types like myself.  Everyone around here knows and speaks to their neighbours. I know this is not the case in lots of other parts of our city. I can't walk 'round our neighbourhood without bumping into a bunch of people to stop and have a chat with. I'm just hoping the tourists who visit on the weekends are the ones buying those sticks and pot makers. And maybe they'll be convinced to dirty their beautiful implements and grow something.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

City Noises

The lorikeets have set up residence in our front gum tree over the past few months. But they've been so high up I haven't really enjoyed them. Just their noise - they sure do make a noise. But I'm not complaining. Lorikeet cacophony is far superior to the usual orchestra of trucks outside our front door.

But today they re-located out back to polish off the last of the figs from the tree. I've shamefully left  most of the figs to the birds this year. But I reckon it's almost worth it to see the lorikeets. Aren't they beautiful?

Thursday, March 8, 2012

All the Garlic Questions

I was reminded by Mark's recent garlic post that it's almost garlic planting time here. And I'm in a bit of a dilemma. I can't seem to get garlic right. The first time I grew garlic they sprouted but were tiny. And then I realised it was because I put them in a stupid spot that didn't get sun over winter. Duh! In my defense I am fairly new to this veg growing caper and looking at where the sun shone in my garden over winter wasn't really a priority before. They were also small because I was impatient and dug them up too early. My second time (last year) they were in a perfectly sunny, recently composted and manured site. Should have worked out well. But they didn't. I only got a couple of good heads. Quite a few rotted. And I don't know what happened to the rest but there was nowhere near enough garlic to keep me going for even a few months.

This year I've been looking through my garden catalogues and pondering garlic again. But garlic is so expensive to buy this way. I usually buy my seeds from Diggers but it costs almost $10 for two lousy bulbs. I can't remember how much I planted last year but two bulbs surely won't be enough.

I've recently expanded my horizons and looked into other seed sellers following Liz's post at Suburban Tomato earlier this year. Eden Seeds sell 1kg of Australian White for $30 or $40 for 1kg of purple monaro. But I'm not sure what 1kg of garlic cloves will look like in my patch - maybe too much? Although I could always go halves with a friend.

Last year I bought a few heads of organic garlic from the market and planted them. Maybe that was why I was unsuccessful?

I remember seeing Hazel's garlic post and realised that I could make much better use of my space. She did loads and loads of garlic and planted them closer than I did. My garlic could be squished in much closer this time. Believe it or not I used to get an actual ruler out and follow the spacing directions on packets! (I know- hard to believe when you see my haphazard garden).

So what do you all do?
• How much garlic do you plant?
• Where do you get your bulbs from?
• What sort would be the best to get when you're a garlic-growing failure like me?
• What are your tricks and tips?

I really, really, really want garlic this year.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Putting the Chooks to Work

I love re-arranging furniture in my living spaces. I get tired of sitting facing the same wall and I very often find myself dragging a couch from one end of the room to the other and sitting on it and then deciding that it doesn't work there and dragging it to another spot and then deciding that the coffee table looks wrong and re-jigging that. And so on until I'm happy. And then I'm unhappy 'cos I notice the scratch marks I've made on the floor with my dragging and quickly decide to re-arrange the rug too.

And so it was a couple of weeks ago that I found myself sitting in the garden considering a garden furniture re-arrange. Problem is hauling rocks and logs and benches outside is a tougher job than dragging the bookshelf or couch about. And when I decided that the bench seat I'd re-arranged didn't quite work where I'd re-arranged it I didn't have the energy to drag it to another spot. So it took a few days to get right. But Littlest Monkey had whined to get his very own hammock so the re-arrange had to be done.

And when all was re-arranged to my satisfaction and the little monkeys and I were happily swinging on our very own hammocks (yep it's a hard life) I got to contemplating the chooks. They have been scratching about in a run that goes from their shed, along the back fence and under the trampoline since they were chicks. And they have well and truly scratched it bare. The poor chooks need their greens and surely they are sick of looking at that same bit of yard. I decided that they needed a re-arrange too.

The great thing about chooks is that they are very good lawn mowers. Actually, there are several great things about chooks but this was the first that occurred to me as I was re-jigging their run. The weeds and grass growing taller in my yard has been bothering me for quite a while now and I'm surprised that it didn't occur to me earlier to employ the chooks to do my work.

I made a run down the other side of their shed. It's not as big as their previous one but there's lots of grass to gobble for the time being. The good thing about silkie chickens is that they can't fly or jump high so I only need little fences. Some chicken wire and a few stakes are all that's required to keep them in check. I've decided that when my tomatoes are finished I'll extend their new run to include that veggie patch. They can scratch it up and deposit their fertiliser there until I'm ready to plant something new.
And then I was reminded of the very long weeds that are growing up my fence in a rather hard to reach spot near my back door. Well I've been telling myself that it's a hard to reach spot but it's possible it's just hard for my hand to muster the enthusiasm to reach and pull them out. Anyway, I was thinking that the next stage could be to reduce a bit of my veggie patch and make a very narrow run all the way down the side to my back door weed patch and they could fix that up for me. I might just need to get myself a couple more chooks to do all the work that I'm planning because silkies are prone to broodiness and two of them very lazily spend their days sitting in the nest boxes at the moment. I'd have to put a stop to that if I want all my weeds sorted by winter.

And by spring I figured that I could put them back in their old run. By which time some grass will have grown. But to help things along I threw a few handfuls of salad leaf seeds under the trampoline and along the back fence. I only had a packet of "gourmet" salad leaf seeds but I decided they'd deserve a treat by then. And as I had some extra silverbeet seedlings needing somewhere to go, they went in too.

And I must say I felt very pleased with myself and the chooks looked quite happy too. In fact everyone looked happy except Wokee who very much wanted to play with the chooks in their new run.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Who Can Identify This?

We have this creeper crawling all over our side fence. It's been there forever - a neglected but thriving vine. It's holding up the dilapidated fence and sprawling over one of Monkey Man's junk piles. But it only recently occurred to me that maybe it's edible? Could this be a choko vine?

I saw someone's blog post about choko a few months back and a little twing went off in my brain.

I can't say I've ever eaten a choko and I can't say it looks too appealing. I wouldn't have a clue about how to begin cooking it but I'm willing to give it a go. Provided enough of you can confirm that it is in fact a choko and I won't go poisoning the family.

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