Archive for the ‘environment’ Category

Harvest Monday and Garden Update, March 2017

Welcome to Harvest Monday, where we celebrate all things harvest related.

February clicked over into March, and our stinking hot summer suddenly turned wet. It has rained and rained and rained. Couldn’t go outside because it was too hot; suddenly became couldn’t go outside because it was too wet. We lurched from an energy crisis (when industrial load had the potential to overlap with domestic “everyone gets home and switches the air-con on” load), to a severe storm and flood crisis.

The advantage of all this rain is that purslane has been popping up in my front lawn/dirt patch. Apparently, purslane grows in highly compacted soils (like mine) and is high in omega-3 fatty acids (this is new to me). Yay! I stir fried this with cabbage, and also added some to a cucumber salsa:

Cucumber salsa

Diced cucumber, pear, random herbs (parsley, chives, tarragon etc), s&p, apple cider vinegar & olive oil. Pretty simple!

I have never really understood the point behind a cucumber. Apart from turning it into a pickle, or eating it in a salad, what is the reason behind its existence? Then I found this salsa recipe in The Cook’s Companion, supposed to be an accompaniment to smoked fish… and I couldn’t stop making it, or eating it.

The armenian cucumber came from the February crop and swap event. I haven’t seen it in the shops before, I liked the taste, so I saved a few seeds to try and grow next season. The marigolds (edible flowers), also came from a crop swap event.

I checked on my bananas earlier in the week, and it appears that I had left them on the tree for too long. They’ve been forming since November, so about three months of ripening. After trimming the hand, clearing off the rotten bits, shooing away the cockroaches and the slugs, and cutting off the slightly nibbled bananas, here we have it.

Roll up, roll up, for the world’s smallest banana harvest!

World's smallest banana harvest

This is 1kg (including skins). Each banana was the size of your little finger, about 5cm or 2 inches long. They were very sweet. I couldn’t eat them all at once, and if I left them in the house unattended for more than a minute, he would throw them out.

Approx 400g tomatoes (no photo). I still have a few more left on the vine, but it is the last gasp of the summer crop. I must not plant tomatoes next year, I really need to give the beds a break.

Approx 10g random curcubit flowers.

The male flowers keep falling off the vine after they’ve done their thing. It seems a waste to let the snails get to them, so I have been adding them to stir fries like zucchini flowers.

Around the garden:

Random curcubit

My random curcubit is still going strong. I originally had three plants pop up in the full sun garden bed, and I transplanted two of the plants to the other two beds. They are taking over where the tomato plants are dying off. I still haven’t identified it, except that it is definitely not a cucumber or a pumpkin.

Random curcubit

I’m thinking winter melon or luffa. Any ideas?

I killed my two cherry trees, which makes me sad. I think over enthusiastic grass trimming killed the roots.

I killed the native raspberry (too much heat when I planted it), but hopefully I have a lead on raspberry or youngberry canes to plant.

I started putting in some seedlings for autumn/winter. I had a bet each way – kohlrabi (cold crop), okra (in case the hot weather continues), and red rosso onion (seeds slightly out of date, hopefully I get some germination).

I am also hoping that this plant:

Papaya?

is the germination of a papaya? There have been guesses for sweet potato, or papaya, but no firm consensus yet. Ignore the red stems, that purslane lurking underneath. What do you think, dear reader?

Crop and Swap Feb 2017

I haven’t attended a crop and swap in quite a while; one because they’re an 80km round trip for me, and secondly – I’ve run out of honey! I haven’t harvested honey since November 2016. The season has been a bit odd and a lot of colonies have failed around the Sydney basin due to infestation of small hive beetle overcoming them, or not enough pollen/nectar due to the funny weather.

Up until now, I have just been doing one-on-one swaps, and racking up an incredible number of kilometres on the car.

But for the last crop and swap for February 2017, I figured that I would make an effort to head to the proper event in Lane Cove.


Crop and swap – out:

Crop and swap - out

This is what I brought with me to the swap event. Two pots of thyme. Two jars of preserved guava – from 2015. I didn’t think it would be safe to bring or subject anyone else to my jars of unset seville marmalade (5 years ago), or various guava jams and guava jellies, made even longer ago! Two jars of kombucha scoby “jerky”.Two packets of native frangipani seeds, collected from my own tree. Beeswax (of course), some rendered as cupcakes, and some as it had come out of my solar wax extractor.

Crop and swap – in:

Crop and swap Feb 2017 - in

1.5litres of worm wee. Kale. Warrigal greens. Genovese Basil. Armenian cucumber. 2 cloves of garlic. 2 finger limes. 1 lime. Lemon balm (plant). 3 chilli peppers – one of them was a scotch bonnet. I love getting chillies, I love their shape, but I can’t eat them!

I had put in a special request for bee friendly plants, so I ended up with several kinds of salvia cuttings (black knight, hot lips, something with bluish flowers, one with lilac/blue flowers); Fruit salad sage cuttings and indian borage. There was a shopping bag filled with chocolate mint. I was debating whether or not I could try and and get a curry leaf branch to take as a cutting (since I had failed earlier in the month), and then another crop swapper offered me a seedling from her garden, I just had to pop past on my way home.

For the seeds I got some for crookneck squash, kohlrabi, dill, and ‘warpaint watermelon’ – which were a wonderful iridescent blue colour. With a name like that, I thought the watermelon would be similarly coloured, but a search for information on the seeds says not.

My drive home was in a scented lemon-ish, chocolate mint haze.

I then spent the afternoon potting my newly acquired cuttings in the glorious, glorious sprinkling rain, and playing “identify this cutting”.

I stir fried the warrigal greens as a side dish to dinner

I turned the fruit salad leaf cuttings (which I had had taken off to reduce transpiration loss) into a iced tea tissane:

Herb infusion

Harvest Monday, 12 Feb 2017

We are in the middle of a long hot summer. Bats, baby turtles are dying. Not joking. On one day the records were broken, and then we went and broke them again the next day. The cycle is of 4-5 days in the high 30’s (deg C or 95 F+), followed by a 1-2 days in the low to mid 30’s – whereupon it feels positively nippy; and then it repeats. Last weekend, it got to 45 deg C (113 F). It has been horrendous. My garden hates it. I’ve had to rig up shadecloth over the tomatoes; but every time a flower on my random curcubit opens, it keels over and the flower falls off the stem. So it is still a mystery plant.

756 g tomatoes, 200g basil

Harvest Monday 12 Feb 2017

They look pretty; but the taste, not so much. I tried to harvest them in the early morning, such that it was close to 24 hours since I had watered them. I originally picked them to give to a colleague who had been inspired by my tales of sugo making from the last batch, but she wasn’t at work on the friday. So.

My friend is a member of a community garden, and posted photos of her harvesting this amazing looking genovese basil. My basil is a tough mediterranean type that survives winter frosts, but is less green and leafy. It is always in flower, and I can’t bear to cut it back because the bees love it so much. I swapped a 500g jar of honey for the basil.

So I turned the tomatoes and basil into fresh tomato and basil pasta for dinner (using fresh pasta from the markets), and enough for lunch the next day. I didn’t have any balsamic vinegar, so I used a combo of apple cider vinegar and guava vinegar.

The next 100g or so of basil I turned into fresh pesto, with pine nuts and a little lemon juice to try and keep the vibrant green colour.


Curry leaves:

Curry leaves

Not mine, my neighbour’s. He was cutting back his curry leaf plant, and offered me some cuttings. I tried to plant them – but I mentioned this stinking hot weather, right? They didn’t take. So I am currently drying them for later use. They have (to me) an unusual peppery herbaceous taste. I’ve used some leaves to flavour kombucha, as well as make a “curry leaf pesto”. It’s got that peppery taste!

Harvest Monday

I have had 1-2 tomatoes so far, all with grubs, but this was the first time I harvested a big lot of them. Ok, so there was a caterpillar munching on one, and evidence of more caterpillar breakfast on another but here is 800g of grosse lisse:

Monday harvest

I had three of them in a slow cooked ‘shakshuska’ breakfast, except that I was so distracted, I forgot to add the egg.

I’m thinking of bringing out my inner wog, and turning the rest of the harvest into my very own passata.

Add various harvestings of thyme, lemon thyme, rosemary and mint.

The cucumbers (300g) are from my neighbour, she’s such a gem!

I don’t know if this is an old wives tale, but she says that if you harvest them in the full heat of the day, it makes them sour. Thoughts?

Monday Harvest, Late November Edition

Not quite a harvest, but a garden update. Yes I know its December, but the photos were taken in November (and the post was started then too)… and so it’s kind of a late spring planting edition.

Native raspberry:

Native Raspberry

It looks like I’ve killed only one cane, but there’s a teeny tiny leaf poking out of the second one. Looking at the leaves, I think it is rubus moluccanus.

Dwarf avocado:
Dwarf Avocado

All the leaves fell off in a recent windstorm. This might be terminal.

Dwarf cherries:

Dwarf Cherry trees

They lost their leaves during autumn. Nothing yet has shooted for spring. Everywhere else in suburbia has done the spring flowering thing, and now has leaves. Also probably terminal. Dang it. I suspect over enthusiastic whipper snippering cut all the shallow surface roots.

So that’s all the bad news.

Harvested.

About 5 strawberries.
10kg honey.
5 Spears asparagus.
Herbs such as oregano, thyme, parsley.

Tumeric:

Tumeric Harvest

I also got about the same amount in ginger. I do like a ‘hot’ ginger, but apparently only old ginger is hot ginger. Does this mean I have to put it in the garden again for another season to make it hot?

Growing:

Banana

Bana-na-na-na-na-na-na-NA-NA-NAH, Bana-na-na-na-na-na-na-NA-NA-NAH.

This was planted in November 2013, and only now, 3 years later, do I get a hand of fruit forming. To quote Big Kev, I’m Excited.

I'm excited

Cropped and swapped.

I haven’t had much chance to talk about crop and swap. I went a few years ago to one hosted in Faulconbridge in the Blue Mountains. That has been put on hold for 2016, so I joined another crop and swap group which is Sydney wide. The aim is that if you have excess produce, you offer it up for swap and you decide what the ‘value’ of what you want in return, but no money changes hands.

About the only thing I have to swap is honey. So far, from one 500g jar of honey, I have collected a kobucha squash seedling, cucumber seedling and three dragon fruit cuttings:

Swapsies

Then three jars of honey gave me a fortnight’s worth of homemade granola, made using the honey:

Granola

So there you have it, my late November/late spring garden update!

Batbox conversion to Warre: the final frontier

The journey continues …

Once again I set up a warre hive box and baseboard (luckily I had a spare), hauled out the adapter board, and settled the batbox settled on top. I taped up cracks in the batbox, the joins between the batbox and adaptor board.

Now what? I got into this beekeeping game wanting only one beehive, which has already given me 30kgs of honey in their first season, and that far exceeded my (and anyone elses’) expectations. Now I’m at 2.5, shortly to become 3.

On one of the natural beekeeping online groups that I follow, I saw that someone had recently lost their hive. It was quite late in the season (autumn), and their chances of catching a swarm and it surviving the winter were very slim. In the 2015 winter, I knew of 5 late-caught swarms that had failed, generally due to the autumn storms. As an alternative I offered them the batbox 2.5 hive to re-home.

This beekeeper was less of a sook that I was, and after giving it a week with the escape board, had no compunction in pulling the batbox apart (in fact, it “fell apart” on her). Her description of the event:


There wasn’t any brood in the bat box just capped and uncapped honey and a few cells of bee bread. I harvested all the honey because that have almost 2 full boxes and starting on the third. Such a lot of work but fun. We lost about 50 bees who drowned in honey when the comb I was lifting feel breaking open into the box. I shook them onto a cloth, smoked and brushed a lot of them but finally around 7pm they had all gone in!

Batbox bees, rehomed

Phew. Glad that’s over. From this family of bees, I’ve had the original batbox colony (this lot), the inadvertant hive split from when I first tried to convert the batbox to warre, and <a href="http://” target=”_blank”>the swarm from when I was too lazy to actually do any thing about them. Aww, I’m getting the warm fuzzies.

Bat box conversion to Warre

I meant to write about this last week (a year ago). Then… the bees actually swarmed, putting my conversion plans off for a little bit. Then life happened, and this post is gathering dust.

In the warre beekeeping system, you “nadir” by adding extra space in the form of extra warre boxes below the currently occupied beehive box. This mimics what bees do in the wild: they find a tree hollow, and start building a home and the comb by connecting it to the top of the hollow of the tree, and building the comb downwards. This contrasts with the langstroth style in which the beekeeper “supers”, by adding the extra boxes on top of the existing occupied beehive box. So a langstroth style beekeeper makes the bees go upwards, and the warre style beekeeper lets the bees go downwards.

Here’s the bat box:

batbox

As you can see, the roof is hinged, and it slopes. The floor is flat, but the back of the bat box sticks out a bit, so it is not flush with the rest of the floor. This helps with mounting the batbox on a tree (or a post), but is not so good for me. The batbox itself is actually a smaller footprint than the warre box.

My original thought had been to nadir the batbox: that is, stick the smaller footprint batbox on top of a warre box, and let the bees move downwards. But the screws holding the floor up look like they had been painted in.

Then the second thought had been to super the batbox; supposedly this would be easier because there is already a removable lid. But then this would create more challenges, because I would need to work out some way to “hold up” the larger warre box. Would I then be creating yet another rod for my back by first asking the bees to move upwards, and then a month or two later asking them to move downwards? I also had a another problem with how to create a new “temporary” entrance, in between the batbox and the new warre box, once the bees had moved upstairs, but in such a way that I could use the one way bee escape.

So it’s back to the downward path we go.

We unscrewed and then levered off the base of the batbox. It was actually surprisingly easy. I made an adapter board by getting some marine grade plywood, painting one coat of white paint over it, and then drilling two access holes with a circle drill bit.

We then placed the the batbox atop this adaptor board, and then atop a warre beehive and a baseboard. I taped up the circular entrance to force the girls to use the entry downstairs.

Batbox to warre conversion

It took me a week to work out that they were so attached to upstairs, they were using this attachment screwhole as an entry. That got tapped up too, and finally they were using the proper downstairs entrance.

About six weeks later, I put in the excluder between the adaptor board and the warre box. By now, Queenie should be downstairs and laying in the new white honeycomb. The next day, I pulled off the batbox, put it to oneside, and put on a quilt box and gabled roof.

Hurray, we are now at 100% Warre!

100% Warre

Being the lazy something or other, I left the bat box hanging around in the backyard for the next week, rather than tossing it out like any other sensible person.

This was a sight that I didn’t want to see:

New tenants?

Oh dear. Either a swarm has moved into this nice, recently up for lease batbox home, or brood which was left behind has started to hatch.

I can’t just throw these girls into the bin to make the problem ‘go away’ (for me) and cause a headache for the garbageman. They’re my little fighters!

What would you have done?