Thursday, 23 November 2017

Natural Mildew Spray Treatment

During the lunch break at last Sunday's Bee keeping workshop the folks enjoyed a walk around the main vegetable garden here at Jembella.  When Brian was asked about controlling mildew he told of the Casuarina  (Equisetum) Tea that he brews from needles of Casuarina or commonly referred to as Sheoak and sprays out to treat mildew on our vegetables. It is also very good for grape vines.

 When asked the mixing rate, Brian admitted that he now goes by sight, and he promised to consult our Biodynamic Manual and let them know. Our original copy of this resource manual became so well used it almost fell apart, so I purchased another copy from Bio-dynamics Agriculture Australia to keep in the house for my use.

 So here is the recipe for Fresh Equisetum or Casuarina Tea as described in the manual.
Cover fresh leaves (needles) from the Casuarina, Equisetum) Tree with water and bring to the boil. Simmer for twenty to thirty minutes and allow to stand until cool.
Strain off the liquid (tea) and use to the ratio of 10 litres of tea to 400 litres of water @ 34 litres per hectare.
It should be poured into a bucket or drum and stirred for twenty minutes before pouring into your spray unit or container. Those already familiar with bio-dynamics will understand the necessity of stirring, to potentize or energise, the preparations before spraying out in the early morning or late afternoon. 
The tea will keep for up to three weeks in a capped container in a cool dark place. When it starts to get black and a bit smelly, throw it away and brew up a new batch.

Depending on the area you need to spray, it can be put out using anything from a small spray bottle to a large mechanised spray unit behind a tractor.
It's amazing stuff, cheap to make, and harmless to our plants, the beneficial insects in the garden and ultimately, ourselves!

Monday, 20 November 2017

Another Successful Bee Workshop

A group of eleven beginner bee keepers joined us yesterday for a full day of bee keeping fun. We were so lucky to have a perfect sunny day in the high 20's, after almost a week of rain and drizzly overcast days.
One of the projects was removing a wild swarm of bees from a wine barrel and placing them into a brood bee box. It began with very noisy electric sawing of the barrel into halves, and cranky bees flying everywhere within twenty metres.
I had loaned out my bee suit, so I wasn't going too close to the action, and thank goodness for zoom on the iPhone.
Every year we get calls from folks asking us to remove bees which have made their home inside a wine barrel. Once again I'll issue advice to any who have an empty wine barrel as a decoration or functional object near your home. Unless you want bees to move into it, resulting in either (a) the destruction of your wine barrel to remove the bees, or (b) the destruction of the bees to save your wine barrel, please bung up the hole so the bees can't get in.
During spring swarming season bees will be looking for any little hole to make their new home, and a lovely roomy and dark wine barrel is perfect.
With this workshop coming up, we collected the barrel containing the bees and brought it home so we could perform the task while showing the attendees how it's done and to utilize the help of a willing few. Brian was able to make a clean cut around the barrel, to create two planter pots which we will return to the owner this week.

Frame making and learning the merits of different types of foundation is an important aspect of bee-keeping. We moved the table and equipment outside so we could all enjoy the cool of the shady willow tree, rather than swelter inside the "Honey Shed".

 Plenty of networking and making new friends during the lunch and morning tea breaks.
The food was well received, and as usual, I over catered. No surprises there!
I finished up making pasties, sausage rolls, a big quiche, and sandwiches for lunch.
Morning tea was macaroon jam slice, pumpkin fruit cake and Anzac biscuits.
Home made lemon cordial was on offer as well as water, teas and plungers of coffee, and a big bowl of fruit.
A short garden tour where the folks were interested to hear Brian speak about our organic and bio-dynamic methods of managing the farm and gardens.
I think perhaps another workshop  about gardening and bio-dynamics will be next on our list of things we can share with other interested people. There is certainly lots of interest there.
There was much interest in Brian's non toxic mildew spray that he makes from She-oak needles, so I'll get the correct recipe from him and post it in my next blog.

During the few hours that people were suited in protective gear and actively involved with bees flying about, I noticed they gradually moved from the outer edges and closer towards the action. It's a strange feeling for a new bee-keeper to be surrounded by bees, and it's at that point that we discover if we want to continue with the craft or not.

The weather was perfect for taking some honey from a few full frames that were found during the inspection of the seven hives here at our home block.
Here Danielle discovers that Brian's job of cutting off the cappings with the hot knife is not quite as easy as he makes it look.
Thank you to each and every one of you who attended and made it the successful day that it was.
Hosting a workshop requires a lot of planning and many hours of preparation, but we both enjoy the day spent with a new bunch of people.
Don't ask us how tired we feel at the end of that day though. A beer for Brian and a glass or two of bubbles for me was enjoyed with dinner of leftover lunch food, and early to bed.


Friday, 17 November 2017

Workshop Preparations

 We're having another Bee-keeping for Beginners workshop on Sunday. The weather has turned cool and wet over the past few days, which is perfect for cooking up a storm in the wood oven.
I prefer to bake and prepare as much of the food as possible prior to the day of the event, so that I'm there to participate and interact with the people who are attending.
I've made sausage rolls and pasties, which freeze very well, so all I need to do on the day is heat them up. I'll put together a few sandwiches and rolls on Sunday morning.
Tomorrow (Saturday) I'll prepare the fillings for those, so it's all straight sailing in the early hours on Sunday.
I've got lists and more lists, to remind me of all the little details that can so easily be forgotten. This time I have a big sign on the table to remind me to put out the home made TOMATO SAUCE when the sausage rolls and pasties go out onto the food table.
I forgot to put it out last time!!! Grrr..!
For morning tea I've made Jam Macaroon Slice, and a Pumpkin Fruit Cake is about to go into the oven.
There's coffee, a range of teas, home made lemon cordial, and water to drink.
Oh and a big bowl of apples and bananas.

We'll be opening up boxes, learning about all the ins and outs of keeping a hive, having lots of fun, and networking among the folks.
I've got to mow the grass tomorrow and if there's time, I'll tidy up the garden a bit, but if it doesn't get done it's not the end of the world.  I'm pretty sure that people don't mind looking at a weed here and there.

I needed to send a photo of the gloves I prefer to wear when handling the hives, to some of our visitors who are flying down from Canberra to attend this workshop. 
(Do you reckon it might have something to do with the fact that we live in one of Australia's most popular tourist destinations? )
So, I'll tell you next week about all the fun we had, and I hope you have the weekend that you hope for.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Garden Update - Part Two

Brian and I are having a wager on the outcome of these cherries. The tree has been in the ground for two years and is loaded with fruit this year. 
BUT, three weeks ago our state experienced a serious hail storm, causing widespread damage to fruit trees across parts of South Australia. The big growers are counting their losses, and the availability of cherries, apples and stone fruits looks like being low for the coming season.
While I was away on holidays, and taking to Brian on the phone, he explained the storm and prepared me for the damage [to our trees] that I'd find when returning home. Listening to the news on the car radio, I felt so sorry for the orchardists who rely on the fruit harvest for their income. Our small crops here have value only for us, so if we suffer a hit every few years, that's not the end of the world, and we need to accept it and move on towards the next season, but the large growers will be suffering. They still have costs and wages to pay, but will receive little income this year.

Brian sent me this photo of  hail lying on the ground while he was at the Post Office in our local town of Angaston.

The shade cloth covering the vegetable gardens was weighed down heavily with hail stones, but our fruit trees weren't protected.

I can see some spots on the apricots, but overall they don't look too bad and this tree is still heavy with fruit.

A few pictures of the wider garden areas. I made two new garden beds over winter. Edged them with logs from the wood heap, and filled the space with straw. This photo is taken standing with my back to an established Golden Delicious apple tree. We keep planting more fruit trees, and the little peach tree shown was a new addition this winter, so instead of having random fruit trees scattered about, I have enclosed a couple of trees into each garden. The spaces in between can be utilized to grow companion plants and vegetables.
I'm waiting for my pumpkins to germinate in these black plastic rounds that we use to deter the earwigs from nibbling the new growth.

Plenty of unscathed fruit on the old Jonathon apple tree.

It's been almost ten years since we grew strawberries here. Our big patch was becoming over run by millipedes and nothing I did could eradicate them. We're don't use chemicals or any poisons, so the only answer was to pull them out and grow a different type of berry. We're aware of the difficulty in growing strawberries without using toxic chemicals, so neither of us has eaten a commercially grown strawberry for many years. It doesn't matter how cheap those punnets of strawberries become in the stores, there is no way we would eat them.
A lovely friend occasionally treats us with her home grown strawberries that she grows in containers, so when I spotted these old water feeders in a rubbish pile, I thought of strawberries.
Now we have larger predators of the two legged, feathered variety, so the cages are to keep out the chickens who get to run in this part of the garden as part of their yard rotation.

Oregano grows like a weed with the drips of water from the tap. Self sustaining and useful, so it's allowed to stay.

The lemon tree is heavily mulched with large rocks around its base, to prevent the escapee chickens from scratching and disturbing the shallow roots. Containers of water are placed all over the gardens for the birds and lizards.

A still and cloudy evening is the best time for spraying out atmospheric fertilizers.
Nettle ferment tea is our favorite; helping the plant's sap to flow, and build stronger resistance to pests, mildew, diseases and hot weather.  This is a weekly event from the middle of spring until the end of summer, using our home made liquid manures and fertilisers.

When is a weed a weed?
A weed is simply any plant growing in the wrong place. For that matter, a beautiful rose could be a weed if it's growing in the wrong spot.
This humble Cape-weed (sometimes referred to as dandelion)  would be a weed if it was growing in the lucerne crop, or if it was taking over the asparagus patch, but here in one of the garden paths it's doing no harm. It's keeping the soil together as everything starts to dry out and the bees are finding pollen from the flowers. In turn, the bees that it attracts are pollinating the vegetable flowers.
Every plant has a use in the system of things, so think twice about removing "weeds"unless it really is a weed.
Caltrop or Bindii and nasty prickly weeds are another matter, but before you pick up the "Roundup" think about the damage that toxic chemical is doing around the world.
I'm off to the side paddock now, with my hand trowel and plastic bag, to dig up any tiny Caltrop plants before they set seeds and multiply.  Thankfully this is the only area on our property that Caltrop is growing, and over the years, through slow and steady digging and placing the weeds in a plastic bag in the sun to kill the seeds, we're getting on top of it.
Good and happy gardening to you my friends.

Monday, 13 November 2017

Jembella Garden Update... Part One

Outside the kitchen door is where we spend most of our down time when the weather permits. In summer most of our meals are cooked out here in either the gas Weber Q or on the barbeque.

Among the flowering plants and under the concrete steps lives a colony of small Skink lizards. We don't see them at all during the cold months, but they start moving about as soon as the Spring days warm up. In fact, we need to watch where we step as we go about our business as they move quite slowly some days, and one misplaced foot could be disastrous.
Just in case you're straining your eyes to find the elusive lizard, there isn't one in this photo, I'm showing the water container. I haven't been fast enough to capture a lizard drinking as yet.
"Flat out like a lizard drinking." Perhaps only the Australian readers will know this bit of Aussie lingo which we might say if we're describing how busy we are!  ;)

 This little one is growing a new tail. They are tiny, less than the size of an Ikea pencil,  and they love to eat flies which are half as big as the lizard's head. I swat flies and leave them laying on the step where the lizards gobble them up.

The pineapples are still taking up one side of the glasshouse, all grown from discarded tops, and now into their third or fourth year in this spot. Every few months one is ready to pick.

 They're deliciously sweet.
No, we don't live in the tropics where pineapples grow, but the conditions in our little glasshouse are perfect for them and as long as they continue to produce, we'll keep them there.
Zero food miles!

A few Mizuna lettuces in the glasshouse.

More lettuces are in this crazy overgrown area,  plus rocket, rhubarb, mustard, coriander, cabbages, potatoes and self sown calendulas and poppies. 
It's my self seeding garden, where plants are allowed freedom of expression, and Bearded Dragon lizards find sanctuary behind the dog proof fence.
I'm waiting for the seeds to dry, for saving, and am slowly clearing some of the greens for the chickens each day.

And now, a walk around Brian's vege patch.

Chard, young capsicum seedlings, turmeric, horse radish and parsnips in the planter pot.

He harvested the garlic yesterday.

Garlic tied in small bunches and hung up to dry before storing under cover in the shed.

Snow peas at this end of the trellis..

Broad beans at the other end of the same trellis.


We're eating cabbage in many ways; 
coleslaw; fried in home made butter; fermented as sauerkraut.

He has planted a row of Jostaberry plants.  Jostaberries are new to us, so I'll keep you posted on how they go. They are pronounced Yostaberry.

Three raspberry trellises, freshly mulched with straw.

 We were a bit late getting the tomato plants in, and have also cut back on the number of plants this year. Our cellar is still groaning with tomato produce from last couple of years.
Tomato chutneys,  Tomato sauces, Preserved tomatoes, Pasta Sauce and Tomato Paste. So instead of our usual fifty plants, we have been very restrained. However, I shall be taking cuttings from these when they are ready for their pruning, and will plant them in another location so we will have late tomatoes to extend our picking season.

The two Blueberry bushes are in pots because they like an acidic soil. Almost ripe!!
This garden is covered in 50% shade cloth during summer and is watered by drip irrigation pumped from our rainwater tanks.
That's enough of the garden for now, I'll show you the fruit trees and other food gardens next time.
How's your garden looking and what are you growing at this time of year in your location?
Cheers and thanks for dropping in.
Sally XX

Saturday, 11 November 2017

A Willy Wag Tale

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(Image of Willy Wagtail bird from Google)

In mid October we discovered this nest made from spider webs on the front verandah.  Mr and Mrs Willy Wag-tail took turns at sitting on the eggs, but as they chose to build above the busiest traffic area on our entire property, they seemed to be spending more time watching their nest from the trees nearby and scolding us with their cranky twitchy grumbles every time we or the dogs walked below.
I really doubted the success of this season's hatching, but within a few weeks little black heads started to appear above the rim of the nest.

I'm always concerned that they build their nest too small for the capacity of family they raise. The original inventors of the 'Tiny House' movement.
In years past their nests in the apple tree, have provided good reason for my concern, with a baby bird plummeting to the ground long before it was ready to fly.

So I was prepared for premature tumbles this year, but yesterday all three, one by one, fluttered out into the world beyond.
Today they are all flying about the garden with both parents attending to their demands.
Now I can relax until it all happens again next year, and I wonder which location they might choose.

Thursday, 9 November 2017

A Solo Road Trip and Granny Time

Those of my friends who I see on Instagram and Facebook will be familiar with all of my Granny Spam that I posted while I was in Victoria with my daughter and little girls.
My road trip took me to Victoria via Coleraine, where I spent my first night out on my own in the Avan. The people in the only two caravans in the small caravan park would have been entertained with side splitting humor as they watched me reverse my little van into a spot not three times, but six times, before I eventually got it right.
Well, actually it wasn't all my fault!! Of course it was Brian's fault for not putting the extension electricity cord into the tool box! I could have parked anywhere, even part way up the street, if I had that extension, so I learned to reverse and get lined up in one tough, but necessary lesson.
However, I had previously practiced opening up the magic box, that is the Avan, and I pulled that off with panache. Surely the onlookers would have gasped in awe at my skill.

 Feeling empowered with my newly acquired skills, the next day of traveling took me to my sister's property out of Winchelsea.  After enjoying an evening in their company and an excellent meal with them, I unhitched the Avan, waved goodbye and ventured forth with just the car across the Queenscliff to Sorrento ferry to my family on the Mornington Peninsula; stopping off for a lunchtime visit to my brother, near Geelong, on the way.
Taking the Avan across on the ferry didn't make economical sense, as both places I was visiting have comfortable guest rooms, but their yards were too small to park the van.

Being Granny to these two is the most wonderful thing, and oh my goodness, they keep me on the move. There is no TV in their home and they see no screens at all, except for the very occasional DVD as a very special treat maybe once a week or month.
Their imaginative games, and the ability they have to entertain themselves, is a joy to be a part of and I applaud their parents for the way they are raising these girls.  Spending lots of time outside, they are certainly getting a good amount of Vitamin D.

 And the best news, soon there will be three.!!

I left them for a couple of days to drive further east to visit another sister at Drouin, in Gippsland. Obviously we were so busy, or so relaxed, that I forgot to take photos! As we age, we siblings seem to become closer, and each opportunity we get to spend together is so very special.
After another few days back with the grand daughters I set off back across the ferry for another couple of days with my sister and to reunite with the Avan.
No holiday would be complete if I didn't visit every op-shop in my path, and I made some very good purchases along the way.
My grand daughters were amused to see me rummaging in the hard rubbish while out walking with them to the playgrounds in their area. What treasures I found for the kitchen; beautiful bowls, casserole dishes and another jug. I have plenty of all these things but still couldn't resist.

Brian and I had fleetingly visited Daylesford six years ago, and I've been keen to return ever since, so after just a couple of hour's driving, I was backing the van into this tight little space unaided, ahem!!
Jubilee Lake Caravan Park made quite an impression on me last time, so I headed straight there again and chose a very quiet spot away from all the other vans.
Each to their own I guess, but I don't enjoy being squeezed in among other caravans, where I can hear my neighbor snoring (or worse).

Not a very good angle, but I was very pleased to have the camera in my hand when this parrot flew in to check me out and eat the crumbs from my biscuit. There's another reward for choosing a quiet spot.
I couldn't believe how fast each day sped past. There were walks to be had, and new places to explore. Far from the crowds.
The joys of traveling solo became apparent to me once again, and allowed me to be completely selfish with my time.

All around the area of Daylesford, Hepburn Springs, Trentham and beyond there are mineral springs, with signs pointing to them from the main roads.....

....with pumps for bringing the water up from the ground below to fill our containers.
Some springs were better tasting than others. This one was bubbly and delicious, with good keeping qualities, so if you're in the area, I can recommend the Lyonville Spring which can be reached by following the small sign on the road between Daylesford and Trentham.

Incidentally, "The Salvos" in Daylesford is the best op-shop I have ever been into (trust me, I'm the connoisseur of op-shops).
Stylishly merchandised with tasteful displays, funky music, polished timber floors, young volunteer attendants, subtle pleasantly fragrant boutique style space; my first thought on entering was "This will be pricey," but it certainly was not pricey at all and I bought a plain red t-shirt for $2.

Sad to leave lovely Daylesford, I packed up and began the return journey towards home, but with a slightly out of the way detour through the historic town of Maldon (near Castlemaine)...

...where I spent a delightful morning wandering about and snapping photos, chatting to locals, and generally enjoying the peace on that quiet week day.

I had been there on a weekend approximately thirty years ago (!!!) and the town was very busy with tourists, so I enjoyed the calmer pace while discovering that the town has not changed at all.
As someone who appreciates history, and feels comfort in being among old things, I could easily live in this town, with its beautiful community of dedicated people who are conserving its beauty.
Bravo to Maldon and to all who live there!!

Another overnight stop in Kaniva, to break the long drive home. The quiet Council owned caravan park has drive-through sites for over-nighters not wanting to unhitch their van from the car. This suited me fine, although I must say I had all that tricky stuff pretty much mastered by then.
Along the way, I met some lovely people, helpful and generous with their time. Being an older 'lady' solo traveler, I felt very safe with the knowledge and belief that most people are inherently good and kind.
Some folks thought I was 'gutsy' to be traveling alone. Although I didn't see any other single older women on this trip, I'm occasionally inspired by other older women travelers, and I hope to continue my travels for many years to come.
Traveling to new places thrills me, it sharpens my thought processes and improves my self confidence like nothing else can.
It's difficult for both Brian and I to get away together for more than a couple of days, at this time in our farming lives, so I'm grateful that he is happy for me to take short trips away.
The Avan certainly makes it possible to travel in this way, all it needs is an average amount of strength to lift the roof and the setting up takes me less than five minutes in total.
Although I'm happy and content to be home again, with new zest and energy after a lovely break, in the back of my mind I'm thinking about the next place I'll venture to.
I know that some folks don't enjoy traveling... do you?  and where do you go when you can get away?
Cheers for now, and thanks for visiting.

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