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Interview with the Lunatic Farmer Joel Salatin

I don't have heroes, but this is one man I do admire.

This interview is long, it takes a while to read, although that could be because you'll find yourself re-reading and then going back and reading it again, so it sinks in.

Interview with the Lunatic Farmer Joel Salatin

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This Spray will Save Your Tomatoes


It's a little early in the season here in Melbourne, the tomatoes are just starting to take off, but I thought I'd post this recipe now so I don't forget and so you have it when you need it, regardless of where you live.

It's a simple spray that prevents blossom end rot. Really. It works. And if you've ever suffered the loss of beautiful tomatoes to blossom end rot, or even blight, you'll appreciate how simple, cheap and effective it is. Blossom end rot is caused by a lack of calcium, so this mixture will really give the plants the calcium boost they need.

You will need:
1 cup powdered milk
4 cups warm water

Step 1. Combine the milk powder and water in a spray bottle. Shake well to combine and dissolve any lumps.

Step 2. Spray all over you tomato plants once a week.

This simple mixture is safe to use and is really effective fungicide and pesticide.

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An Odd Companion Planting


Yesterday was a glorious day, sunny and warm, and much to nice to not be in the garden.

Wayne and I pottered around, tying up tomatoes, planting more beans, weeding, feeding and working on the drip watering system.

After the gales of the last couple of weeks I was thrilled to find blossoms on the fruit trees, I was sure they'd all have been blown away, like the back fence! But no, mother nature is tough and the blossoms survived.

So did the weeds. The dwarf lemon is in a large tub and for the life of me I can't figure out how it can be so weedy. It was filled with the same mix as the other pots and they are almost weed free.

Anyway these weeds are tough. They don’t come out easily. In fact I had to dig them out, they were down so deep in the pot. I tugged and pulled and stuck the fork down deep and low and behold just look at what I pulled out!



Yes, it's a parsnip! Parsnips in with the lemon tree! I have no idea how they came to be in there. The other pots are parsnip free and I'm not sure if I'm disappointed or pleased!

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Plenty to do and lots to ponder

This warm, wet weather is causing havoc with my veggies. I'm checking the tomatoes and zucchini each morning for any sign of fungus or mildew, so far so good. Having the tomatoes so far apart is a good thing I think.

It's also created weeds. We have never had a weed problem in the garden like we have this summer. I'm wondering if the last lot of compost we mulched into the soil wasn't properly broken down. It looked lovely and had that definite compost odour to it. Or perhaps someone mistakenly put some weeds into the compost, not realising. Towards the end of summer I had a couple of little helpers, my 7 and 5 year old neices and 3 year old nephew, and they were very enthusiastic little gardeners.

The apple tree is full of fruit and after last year I am watching it like a hawk. Between the birds and fruit thieves I am kept busy rattling the front window. If it stops raining over the weekend the boys will pick them for me. I'm hoping to get enough this year to make apple butter and some dried apple rings for winter as well as putting away some pie apple. I love it on my porridge in winter with a sprinkle of ground cloves or cinnamon.

One of my jobs for this weekend will be to sit down and work out the next lot of planting. With fruit and vegetables expected to double in price due to the floods I'd like to be able to have enough in the garden to keep my mother in vegetables and perhaps pass some on to my sister-in-law too. Mum has a veggie garden, so perhaps we can share the planting and help each other out.

This morning, in between hospital visits for Wayne and back-to-school shopping for Hannah I turned over the new garlic bed and added some compost (this lot is really well composted), ready to plant some early varieties in a couple of weeks.

While I was outside I picked a soup bowl of plump, juicy, sweet strawberries and guess what - yep, I ate them. I've given up on making jam, these strawberries are much to delicious to use in jam. They are so sweet on their own. I used some to decorate a pavlova on Sunday, with a little passionfruit. Everyone came back for seconds it was so good.

With the challenge to grow all our vegetables for the year, an extra raised bed may be necessary. I'm just not sure where to put it. Our backyard is very, very small and positioning the beds so they get the most sun is a challenge. The ideal spot is right where the clothesline is, but if we move the clothesline then it will be quite useless in winter.

The alternative is to turn one of the flower beds in the front yard into a veggie bed and plant the more decorative vegetables. Perhaps I could work an arrangement of potatoes in so it doesn't look too odd, although the pumpkins out the front blend right in. Something else for me to ponder.

That's the nice thing about gardening. There's always something to do and something to ponder, even if it is just where to plant the potatoes.

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Let your plants breathe

Today's Tip of the Day over at the Cheapskates Club was about plants, so here is the link to Let your plants breathe

Good air circulation is important for healthy plants, tempting though it may be to squeeze them up and get more plants into the dirt.

I find with tomatoes especially that having at least 80cm, preferably 1m between plants is ideal. It gives them room to grow and spread out and the good air circulation really does help to cut down on fungal diseases, especially in humid climates or when you are having a run of hot but wet weather like we are having at the moment.

If you don't think you have enough room in your garden beds to space the plants, seriously consider using container planting. It's easy then to move them so there is plenty of space between plants.

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When a week seems like a day

The cucumbers are taking over the back yard!

I can't believe it's a week since I posted. So much has gone on, in the garden as well as in the house.

I'm looking out the family room door at the moment. On the back verandah I see my two hanging baskets, back in the tubs for soaking and hopefully saving. Just a couple of hot days, with me totally forgetting they were there and they have wilted and withered. I hope I can save them, they were so pretty and cheerful hanging under the verandah.

Next to the tubs, laying in rows on the deck, is the garlic, brown onions and salad onions I pulled a few days ago. They were well and truly ready to be harvested, the leaves had died off and they were a lovely, golden tan colour. To my surprise the heads of garlic are a great size, much better than I thought they'd be as we've had so much rain and this lot were late going in.

The brown onions are just average, but again they went in later than the others and were in a rather shady bed. But there's enough there to last us about six weeks with our normal consumption so I may not have to buy too many onions this year after all.

The white salad onions are huge, aromatic and tempting. I'd actually forgotten they were planted in the end of the brown onion bed, so when I pulled the first one up I had a surprise. I shouldn't have, the tops are quite different, but in my after Christmas haze I just assumed they were mutant brown onions!

The tomatoes are growing straight and tall

Beyond the end of the verandah are the tomatoes. Taller than the fence now, with hundreds of flowers and almost as many tomatoes on each bush, they are my pride and joy. There are two varieties, both heirlooms: Mortgage Lifter and Amish Paste. Both are new to me, and both are supposed to be prolific fruiterers. It looks like they'll live up to their reputations.

I'm hoping for a good crop of tomatoes this summer. Enough for lots of salads and sandwiches and plenty leftover for making sauces. I had the boys drag my old Fowlers bottling kit out of storage this week so I can check the seals and clips before I start preserving. I've run the bottles through the dishwasher once, to get the dust off them (how does so much dust get into sealed boxes) and I'll give them another wash before they are sterilised to use.

It may not look that big but this zucchini has taken over half a garden bed!

At the end of the row of tomatoes is one giant zucchini plant. I've never had one plant grow so big before. The zucchini are the regular size, although I pick them when they are small. I think smaller zucchini are much sweeter and tender than the bigger ones. I sometimes do let them get bigger though so we can have a them stuffed for dinner. Two large, stuffed zucchini are enough for the five of us as a lunch meal, especially when they are stuffed with a little rice, mince, onion, tomato and spices mixed with the shredded flesh and baked in the oven with a little tomato sauce over the top.

I was going to show you the strawberries but I totally forgot and picked and ate them  straight off the plants while I was watering! My goodness the flavour of those sun-warmed strawberries was so good. I don't think I could eat a mass produced, forced strawberry again. These home grown berries are thousand times nicer.

My veggie garden has been sadly neglected since Wayne became ill, but I'm itching to get back out there, especially as we need more veggies to keep us going.

It's the 8th of January 2011 and I haven't bought a veggie of any kind since 28th December 2010 -11 days of no veggie buying (and yes, we have been eating veggies, lots of them)!

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We're off to a bountiful start.....


....if you like cucumber, zucchini and strawberries!  These are the things my veggie garden is producing in abundance at the start of this, our year of eating from our garden.

The parsley and garlic chives are doing well too.

The tomato plants have loads of flowers and lots of little, tiny tomatoes. Now for some sunshine to plump and ripen them up.

Because we had planned to be away over the Christmas - New Year period, I stopped planting lettuce in late November so we are fast coming to the end of those leafy salad greens. I popped some more seeds in this afternoon and gave them a light drink. Hopefully, snails, birds and possums withstanding, we'll have lettuce ready to start picking in four weeks or so.

My year of eating from the veggie garden is going well so far, considering there's not that much ready at the moment.

Thankfully the beans, carrots and cauliflowers were all frozen before Christmas so we will still be getting plenty of variety.

I pulled about 15kg of onions all up, much more than I thought I'd get and they have all been either sliced or diced and frozen too. Onions freeze very well, although the odour can sometimes leach into the freezer so I always double bag them, first in a freezer bag and then into a ziplock bag with the air removed.  I used to just slip a drinking straw down the side of the bag, zip it across to the straw and suck the air out before I quickly pull the straw and finish zipping.

Next time I'll be able to vacuum seal them because Wayne gave me a Sunbeam food vacuum sealer for Christmas and I won't need to double bag, and hopefully they'll last longer too.

Now I am waiting (not so) patiently for the potatoes to die off so I can pull them up. I love new potatoes in potato salad and steamed in their skins with a dab of sour cream and some chopped chives.

This is a really easy potato salad and has become one of our favourites. Steam one medium potato per person, skin on. When done, cool a few minutes and then cut into chunks. Fry an onion in a little olive oil until crisp (this takes a few minutes). Mix a good slurp of balsamic vinegar with a good egg mayonnaise (about 1/2 cup for 6 potatoes) and gently stir through the potato. Mix through the fried onion. Chill. You would not believe how nice this is. Not necessarily good for the figure but very tasty and a nice change to regular potato salad.

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