No matter how deluded I try to be, there is too much going on for me to believe myself any more.
What the heck am I going on about? Well basically, despite the last week of gorgeous blue sky sunny days, there are too many signs that prevent me from pretending we are still in the middle of January, still in the middle of summer!
My new gumboots and gloves have been nicely worn in, and it’s not because I want to use then, but it’s more comfortable to do so. I’m not about to admit I’m going soft in my old age, because I will never admit I am getting soft and I will definitely never admit I am getting old!
I’ve planted out most of my spring bulbs into their buckets. Because our soil gets “a bit” wet in the winter, and to prevent my bulbs from rotting where they lie, I plant my bulbs in buckets with holes drilled in the bottoms – I’m all class! Added to all the old ones I diligently dug up a few months ago, I bought another 40 daffodils and 40 tulips, so our deck is going to be overloaded with over wintering buckets. The only upside to this is looking forward to the first blooms heralding the start of a fresh new season, a blank canvas to be filled with an array of gardening endeavours, some good, some not so good. Not that I’m trying to wish my life away, winter is important too.
The weather has cooled down enough for me to start using the greenhouse again to coax life into crops that will be gobbled in some hearty meal in the coming months! It seems so weird to be using it again. It looks so empty. But then again so does the garden. I have cleared out another bed, which is just lying there empty.
The tomatoes are definitely over! I just need to pull them out. This time it isn’t a case of kidding myself that it’s still summer if you have tomato plants in your garden, no matter how bedraggled. They NEED to come out – the stupid things have gone and got themselves some blight. I think I will need to burn their sorry carcasses. But this leads into another seasonal confirmation – the smell of bonfires, burning garden waste is so autumn!
And the last nail in the coffin of summer is the clocks have gone back to where they belong.
Come again soon – I will not let the seasons defeat me, I shall garden on….
Sarah the Gardener : o )
I just wanted to share a wee drama I had today and I really would hate it to happen to anyone else!
Recently my old faithful and reliable camera, that I effectively hijacked from the family to take gardening photos, died. The memory card held within was jam packed with photos proudly taken of my awesome produce, with the occasional birthday party, parental proudness and cute moments – although with growing boys “cute moments” are getting fewer and far between!
The camera had been my constant gardening companion for years. The cord was all grubby and I was sure there was dust in the focus bit that zooms out (I’m not a photography expert, more a point and shoot kind of a girl) because it made a funny crunching sound when it zoomed in on something. It was old and battered, but it did the job. That was until I dropped it! So I convinced Hubby the Un-Gardener that in this day and age that it is pointless not having a decent camera to catch those all-important special moments, although I neglected to mention that more often than not we have our phones with us and they take pretty decent pictures these days. But he saw reason and off we went and brought a shiny new camera (in black so the dirt won’t show as much!)
I figured all I have to do is swap the SD card over and bobs your uncle, we’re back in business and I was in business – for about a week. Then I popped the SD card into the computer to have a look and got the biggest shock – the kind that leaves a sick feeling in the pit of your stomach as you fight the waves of nausea. They were gone. My photos – just gone. The ones taken with the new camera were all still there – taunting me as if to say: “get those grubby old shots out of my memory space.”
Now the problem was that I hadn’t been very good with backing up. Every time I looked at the photos I’d think – I should do something with those, and luckily for me, occasionally I’d drag a whole lot across to the computer, but I never got round to deleting them off the SD card. Which is probably more likely to be the cause than a new camera with malicious intent! There were about 2000 photos on my SD card – mostly of the garden! Frustratingly the properties function shows the card is almost full, but I just can’t get to them!
So now I have gone into back up overdrive, I have “very important files” backed up to two alternating memory sticks, a CD and an external hard drive and sent to a specially opened Gmail account. Not so important stuff is backed up to CD and external hard drive. Now all I need to do is to remember the pain of losing data and train myself to back up routinely.
I figure I have only really lost photos taken since January and while it is sad to think the birthday party photos and other memorable moments are gone, we still have the memories in our heads and hearts and I since we switched to digital I had never printed any out anyway! The garden photos can be retaken next season and tales of the summer of 2012 can be like a good “the one that got away” fishing story: You should have seen how fabulous my garden was that season – not a weed in sight (wink wink nod nod!)
And that old SD card, well I think I need to replace it as I don’t want to risk losing more memories, but I shall label it “stuffed SD card” and pack it way somewhere safe so that in the advent of a miracle it should start working again, I’ll be able to back it up.
Come again soon – but back up your stuff before you do!
Sarah the Gardener : o )
I’m still in bed, the sun has come up, but it is cold. It’s the first morning where I have actually noticed the cold, even before getting out of bed! The kids are moaning about the cold and Hubby the Un-Gardener is frantically searching for his beanie! Apparently the overnight low was only 7°C so we will have to get used to things getting a bit colder than that in the months to come.
It sort of came as a bit of a shock! The weather, while quite wet has been quite mild, and we were tricked by our memories of autumns past and lulled into believing autumn doesn’t actually get cold.
Yesterday I went out and made some timely purchases, but I think I need to go back out and buy more. Yay! I’m a girl and a gardener, what better collision of coolness is shopping for gardening stuff!
I am now the proud owner of a brand new pair of Red Band Gumboots and for some this may not seem so exciting, but for me…. well lets just say I’m having difficulty convincing myself to take them off! When I first started gardening I had those cool funky, trendy gumboots, picked up cheaply at the red shed. They were my first gumboots since childhood, and they had pretty flowers on them and they were cheap! They didn’t last long at all. Within the first couple of months my shiny new gumboots were dull, scratched, caked in mud and had bust open along a seam and were letting cold water and mud in. I think their intended use was for a gentle bit of gardening in the suburbs, not hard core rural digging!
So the decision was made to purchase the real deal: Red Band Gumboots – made for farmers! And this pair lasted for years. In the last couple of weeks I noticed my faithful boots had sprung a small leak up near my big toe where I had worn them out through season upon season of digging and weeding. Cold wet squishy mud and water was sneaking in. I had resorted to putting a plastic bag in the boot to protect my feet, but this solution wasn’t going to be a keeper going forward. Now I have new boots and I love them!
I also bought new gloves with winter in mind. I must be getting older and wiser or something. In my early days as a gardener (5 years ago) I would work away quite happily bare handed, convincing myself that it is so much nicer to be in touch with the soil and the plants. But what it really was, was I had never really worked with the right gloves. I owned several pairs of these cloth ones that were never a close fit and when they weren’t filling up with dirt, they fell off. So thoughout the growing season – and most of the year for that matter, my hands were stained to give me the green thumb I so desired. All I needed now was my experience to catch up!
Then I found these cool gloves that fit well and have some kind of rubber infused into the palms and finger tips. You can work and feel the dirt and keep your hands relatively clean. They work a treat! Although I can still be found with dirt under my nails as I will more often than not end up gardening when I hadn’t intended to. It starts with a weed here and a weed there and before you know it a whole garden bed has been made over without the use of gloves and more than likely in my good clothes!
But these hard working gloves don’t last forever and I had noticed the tips had worn through, so while gumboot shopping I picked up a pair of gloves. I reached for my usual pair, but then another pair caught my eye. They were better! The rubber bit went all over them, so while digging in the cold wet winter dirt my hands will stay warm, dry, cosy and clean. Well that is the plan.
But to successfully do winter gardening I need more stuff! I need thick socks, I need wet weather gear and I need thermal underwear….
Come again soon – daylight savings ends on Sunday!
Sarah the Gardener : o )
Sometimes it feels like my life is being narrated by the blogging ideas going on in my head. A lot of the time it is just a short simple thought that really doesn’t have the substance behind it to be padded out to a full blog, or something more interesting happens that is perfect for an entertaining post that also satisfies the desire to create a story, or I’ll take a photo that at the time I wholeheartedly believe will become a blog in the very near future, but it never happens – my camera is full of these!
So today I decided is a good day to get these thoughts out of my head and out of my camera.
Frogs up my legs.
The other day we were clearing away some of the more stubborn weeds in the goat paddock, namely those awful rust coloured dock seed heads that can give the landscape a neglected and derelict feel, similar to the effect a rusting out car carcass would give. Anyway there I was chopping a way with my long handled loppers, taking out the stalks at the base and I felt something wet and weird up my trouser leg. Somewhat startled I gave my leg a wee shake and out hopped the cutest bright green frog. Unfortunately I didn’t have my camera with me so you have to take my word for just how cute he was. I saw several more frogs while hacking way at the dock, and in the back of my mind I hoped and prayed that I wouldn’t end up chopping one in half by accident, which I’m pleased to say I didn’t!
The summer that has just gone was awful. We know that because I bleated about it so much, but as a result my onion crop was pathetic, in fact today I managed to pretty much cram the whole crop into two jars to make pickled onions!
So to hedge my bets I have taken action – I mean it may not have been the weather that caused a poor crop, it could have been something I’d done, although I’m really quite happy to blame the weather and leave my gardening prowess intact! I have sowed onion seeds earlier than I ever have before so, well the theory goes, that they will be bigger and stronger by the time they get into the ground on the shortest day and therefore will have a greater chance of success. The wives tale round here goes “plant onions on the shortest day and harvest on the longest.”
This doesn’t bode well…
I don’t think feeding mice pizza is a good idea. Hubby the Un-Gardener is of the school of thought that mice look so cute, how could you not feed them!
Tribute to lost chickens.
I don’t think I’ll ever get used to this. We had two wee chicken families going on in our coop. One mum had 3 “teenage” chickens and they are so cute and another mum had three tiny chickens about a week old – one of which sadly passed away and was lovingly buried. So our flock was expanding nicely and it wouldn’t be long until we could pass these babies on to our friend to populate their new coop. Yesterday I went out to feed the chickens and was mortified to find that the two little babies and one of the older babies were missing, gone, no trace – not so much as a feather. The mums were quite distressed. I think it was rats. As the weather starts to get cooler they are turning to warmer places to hang out. I found a couple of tunnels leading into the coop and in a fit of anger I lobbed rat bait down each hole and covered them up! I have also charged Hubby the Un-Gardener with the task of “Fixing It!” I want the coop pest resistant. I want heaps of impenetrable concrete laid, I want fine mesh fencing around the perimeter – I think sensor alarms and surveillance cameras are taking it a bit too far – but I did think about it… briefly!
My melons were such a disappointment.
I didn’t think I had managed to produce any at all – laying the blame for this firmly at the feet of the crappy summer. Then when clearing weeds away I was delighted to come across two small specimens. Melons – I did it yay! I brought them inside and cut them open and shared with Hubby the Un-Gardener. He is always hesitant when I offer him something first (after the chilli episode). It smelled like melon so I figured it would be fine. But it tasted like a strange cucumber with a hint of bitterness. So disappointed – next year I am going to foil the weather and grow these in the greenhouse.
Well that seems to have de-cluttered my thinking place.
Come again soon – I’ve a cunning plan that is so crazy it might just work!
Sarah the Gardener : o )
There is nothing like having the imminent arrival of an important guest to shake away apathy and cause a frenzy of activity. Lately I have been a bit slack on the gardening front. I seem to have wholeheartedly embraced the wind down towards winter and wound right down. I figured that as it cools down then the weeds will slow down and I’ll be able to get to them when I feel like it.
Besides most of the beds don’t have any crops that need a new home, I mean it’s not like spring when you have a greenhouse bulging with greenery that desperately needs to go in the ground so you dig and weed and weed and dig every hour of light God sends and if things are really bad then you pop on one of those hat torches and keep going in the dark.
The expression “It’s a jungle out there” was probably the best way to describe the state I had allowed the garden to get into. I do it every year – I take my crops and without so much as a thank you , I walk away with the intention of getting on to it later, knowing full well that it’s not going to happen and I’ll be the one in the dark, in the spring, digging and weeding with a torch strapped to my head!
So I got news a couple of days ago to expect a very important visitor, and if it was Hubby the Un-Gardener who had the visitor, then he would just sweep the office, stack his papers nicely and put on the fresh coffee. For me the stakes are higher, I would be ashamed if I let anyone see the garden in the state I let it get into. I need to work hard. I need to enlist help to get it done on time. Why is my garden so big?
I’ve been digging and weeding, weeding and digging for days! Fortunately a well prepared soil lovingly tended in the spring has prevented all but the most stubborn weeds from taking up residence. The worst culprit is the Dock with its nasty taproot. I may even go so far as to say it is my gardening nemesis.
I’m nearly there, with about a quarter of the garden left to do. Not only am I urged on by completely eliminating the shame factor when my very important visitor shows up, but a thought popped into my head while I was toiling away: “Sarah the Gardener, if you get all this done now, it will be easy to stay on top of over winter and then you will have more spare time for exciting projects!” I like that thought, so I will push on and try my hardest to have a weed free garden by the end of the week. Wish me luck.
Come again soon – I have a whole load of gardening gems floating around in my head!
Sarah the Gardener : o )
At the beginning of summer I promised myself I would make two dishes before the end of summer. A Nicoise Salad with fresh beans from the garden. I had always wanted to make this dish but summer always slipped by so fast that it never happened. This year I finally managed it, although it was a close call – in the latter days of February. But it was still very delicious, with most of the ingredients coming from the garden. I don’t know why I took so long to make it – maybe because we don’t really like beans all that much!
But that isn’t the dish I wanted to talk about. Today I made the most incredible dish. I’m not sure what delayed me, maybe it was I was waiting for that perfect summer day that never happened, or I was just procrastinating. The first reason shows me in a better light! The dish in question has a fancy name “Insalata Caprese Salad” but I didn’t know that until just now when I Googled it, because a Tomato, Mozzarella and Basil Salad, just sounded too ordinary to do it justice. Although its simplicity is its secret. And it is so good!
Oh why did I wait so long – this is a dish that deserves to be eaten outside on a hot summer evening with a good bottle of something Italian, not inside on a wet, miserable autumn day! Well I am just glad I got round to making it, driven by the fact that the last of the tomatoes are clinging to shrivelled plants, with the first hint of blight spotted on a bush in a damp corner. As far as the tomatoes go – it was a case of now or never, I don’t even know what varieties I used as the labels had long since worn away, but they were red, ripe and juicy!
Another key ingredient – the basil had got lost in the herb garden – over run by the parsley that had gone to seed and the nasturtiums (mental note: plant them away from other things next year – they are a bossy plant!) Once I found them I realised that like the tomatoes – they too were on their last legs and were in full flower. I really need to get in there and harvest and process them before it is all over and I missed the boat!
The last ingredient was something I didn’t grow – but I made, and I’m so proud of myself. I made the mozzarella. Admittedly I had to make two attempts because yesterday it all went mushy at the last stage instead of going stretchy! Having said that it is actually really easy when you follow the instructions (check here to see how) and I ended up with all these little balls of white cheesy goodness. (I’ve kept some back to use on a pizza or cheese on toast – yum!)
Then I sliced everything up and laid them out decoratively on a plate, drizzled with olive oil and did-dah – I did the impossible, I turned back time and for a few minutes it was summer again!
Come again soon – I have a crazy plan – I hope it works.
Sarah the Gardener : o )
More often than not when I wake up in the mornings it is dark. It couldn’t possibly be because I’ve been waking up earlier because I’m just not that kind of girl, which can be verified by the fact I have no idea if it’s getting colder outside on these darker mornings as I like to stay tucked up in bed until the last possible moment! But eventually I have to drag myself out from under the covers and face the day.
Today is a Saturday, which is fantastic. There aren’t many pressing responsibilities on a Saturday – other than making sure the kids get their basic needs met – you know: food and water, the rest is up to them. Today I can hang out in the garden guilt free! But what to do with this free time?
I have lists everywhere of things to do in the garden, some big projects and some really small, but most of the time you have to go on instinct and leave the projects to the spare time in your spare time! So as I stood in the garden looking about I could see immediately what needed my attention. The Corn. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect. It really did need that extra week propped back up after being blown down by the storm.
In the beginning I had such a terrible job getting it started, I think I had to re-sow three times and had to go out and get more seed. In the end I sowed the seed on the same day that the farmer next door had planted out his maize and it worked really well for both of us. But in my wee gardening book I will be writing down under the corn heading: despite corn preferring to be planted out directly, I prefer not to have to re-sow again and again. So I need to start off indoors. I also need to devise a wind break thingy to help them stand up to the average weather bomb that will ultimately be thrown our way midsummer!
The corn I harvested was great – all the kernels were full, plump and juicy. So 30 delicious, perfect looking cobs have been chucked in the freezer for that yellow sunshine taste in the middle of winter. There were a couple of manky ones – the kind where there are only half a dozen kernels. In the past these have made up the majority of the crop, and so I would determinedly nibble each of the malformed cobs – I went to the effort of growing these stupid things – then damn it, I’m going to eat them! This season there were so many “normal” ones that I happily threw the manky ones to the chickens, who gratefully gobbled them up. So now we shall have homemade corn flavoured eggs for breakfast.
I reckon based on today’s supermarket prices for sweet corn ($0.75 each) I have saved the family the princely sum of $30 dollars! (Included in this calculation is the ones we have already eaten – I’m bad with maths but not that bad!) With the added benefit of low food miles, I know where it has come from and I know what hasn’t been sprayed on it!
But then I had to turn to chopping down the stalks and clearing out the bed, removing all trace of a crop that has been such a prominent feature in our landscape all summer. The garden just looks so barren without its height and lush presence.
Come again soon – the end of summer clear out is only just beginning… sigh…
Sarah the Gardener : o )
This was the worst summer ever! I’m surprized I managed to get any crops at all. I also feel all I did all summer was moan about the weather. But I feel vindicated now. All the news reports are coming in with exactly just how awful it really was. A quick Google search reveals headings such as:
“Sunless: A summer in name only”
“Who stuffed up summer?”
“Is this the worst summer weather you’ve ever experienced?”
“Summer 2012 – Land of the long grey cloud?”
“Summer downpours to continue” and
“More dreary weather marks end of summer”
So I didn’t imagine it. My garden season was bad because the weather was bad. The experts appear to be blaming it on La Nina who just bought buckets and buckets of rain and cloudy days to our summer holiday season and everyone seems to agree – this was a particularly bad summer which is great news because my credibility as a gardener remains intact – the poor yield wasn’t my fault!
And autumn isn’t shaping up to be much better – we are in the middle of a Weather Bomb! So much for a quiet weekend pottering about in the remains of my garden, a fast moving storm with fast wind (in excess of 120k/h) and lots of rain and lots of damage. Throughout the country roofs have been torn off, trees uprooted and the power is out to many homes.
So I’m tucked up inside praying my greenhouse stays standing and that we get off lightly. I phoned the insurance company to see if my greenhouse was covered and they said probably not, because it’s not a content and not really a building, and they don’t think they could insure it because its construction of polycarbonate panels and aluminium framing makes it too flimsy, and even if they could insure it – they wouldn’t do it on the day before a big storm. But it’s worth a thousand hard saved for dollars! That kind of money doesn’t come easily. It’s not like a greenhouse is a disposable item – easily replaced. So I go back to praying that my greenhouse won’t blow away.
But the thought that has kept me sane is “there is always next season” and it runs through my head over and over. And just to confirm that a gardener’s hope always rests in the next season there are three small seed trays with the beginnings of the best winter crop ever, hiding from the elements in the safety of the shed.
Come again soon – maybe I’ll be able to actually share about gardening for a change!
Sarah the Gardener : o )
With only four days of summer left the sun decided to show his face – hopefully as a result of guilt and shame for his lack of attendance during the last three months. Yesterday was a wonderful day, all hot and blue skies and cicadas cicading and a day where the garden just beckons “come and play with me!” And that was exactly what I did.
With an ever increasing list of projects in my head, I took one look at the garden and knew exactly where to start: mow the grass. I feel like I have spent so much time this summer mowing the grass or waiting for it to dry out so I can mow it. Normally at this time of year it is a shadow of its former spring self – all brown and dried with dusty patches where I have walked over it too much on my way to get tomatoes or herbs. It barely needs mowing at all! This year it is still lush and long and full of vigour that is reminiscent of the early days of spring.
With all the long grass everywhere the patch just seems overwhelming – like a big weedy overgrown mess! A quick-ish blat about with the lawn mower restores a sense of order and reduces the enormous amount of work originally perceived to the more manageable reality of the situation.
Although this mowing wasn’t without its ups and downs. Our mower is a little trooper. It is often asked to do chores that its wee budget body was not designed for. It probably sits in the shed and daydreams about a small bit of grass out the back of a town house in the city! But it is our little reliable rural mower and despite having numerous components fall off, he still pushes on through and gets the job done. I don’t know what all those bits were for because he still works perfectly well?!
But after shedding the most recent detritus, Hubby the Un-Gardener decided to “take a look.” Although he’s not all that mechanically minded, he has a go, and pretty much always sorts things out. He once took the gear box of the ride on mower apart and fixed it by taking photos with his iPhone every step of the way, googling the problem when he found it and then reassembled it by looking at the photos in reverse order. He’s very resourceful!
So I hauled out the freshly made over mower only to find it wasn’t working very well at all, so Hubby the Un-Gardener suggested I use the ride on mower as the beds had been designed to be far enough apart for it to fit. But after a couple of sweeps I stopped it and got off. I hated it. It was too clumsy. I wanted my old battered mower. I understand that mower, I know just how far I need to go around the trailing pumpkins without shaving them off, it fits underneath the leaning fennel that has gone to seed, it gets close to the beds and I like that mower.
So Hubby the Un-Gardener sacrificed his Sunday afternoon in the sun to fix the old mower, and soon we were chugging up and down between the beds like old times – until we ran out of petrol…
Come again soon – with only a handful of days of summer left I intend to get the most out of them.
Sarah the Gardener : o )
When talking about gardening, thoughts of digging, nurturing tiny seedlings, weeding and getting dirt under the nails, watering and harvesting the fruits of your labours spring to mind. But there is one step on from this one that is just as labour intensive, but equally as rewarding. That is processing the produce. The other day I went to check on the orchard only to find the peaches and damson plums were ready. They are relatively young trees, so the yield wasn’t massive (although next year will probably be) but they have come ripe together – alongside a large harvest of elderberries.
On top of this, the corn is coming ready so that’s approximately 60 ears that need attention, I have a huge pile of onions from my poor crop that are too small to be of practical use in cooking and so the only answer is to pickle them – so they are waiting in the shed, where I left them to dry out. The kale and the rainbow beet have gone completely nuts and I should harvest some and freeze for winter use. So there is nothing else for it – I have to make jams and sauces, pickles and wines, blanching and processing and do all manner of kitchen gardening jobs.
But I need to fit this around doing the “real” gardening. The rain has been such an ever present feature in the garden this summer which has its up sides and it’s down sides. On the up – I haven’t had to water much, on the down, the lawns and the weeds have run rampant but because of the wet conditions it is neither practical or desirable to get out there and sort them out and worst of all: the overall yields are down on previous years.
I also need to sow seeds for the winter crops – or we’ll never get any broccoli. Then there are the maintenance jobs. The wind last night was so strong it blew over my trellis set up for my cucumbers and luffas. This really needs to be fixed because if I don’t my luffas won’t grow straight and who wants crooked luffas? But it is still wet and yucky outside and while an important task, not one I’m looking forward to. Maybe I’ll get Hubby the Un-Gardener to help so I won’t be the only one getting wet!
The dilemma is what to do first – kitchen gardening or garden gardening? I could just shove the fruit into the freezer for the minute and do the jam making on a cold autumn evening and warm the house while doing it, instead of overheating an already humid home, making it unbearable for all!
Having said that autumn starts next week, so then we can kiss goodbye to an awful summer and settle down to a season or two when you expect the weather to be bad and daydream about that perfect summer that will be knocking on our doors again before we know it. I’m not normally such a moany gardener, I’m normally happy and excited, but there is only so much rain one can take before spirits are completely dampened!
On a different but very sad note – Smoochy Pooch (what the kids ended up calling the baby chicken) passed away and we held a wee funeral yesterday. She was only with us a short time but made a huge impression on us all. Funny the ways such a small wee thing can do that!
Come again soon – I need to do some kind of gardening – any kind of gardening… I just need the rain to stop!
Sarah the Gardener : o )