Goats in the drain

I may have mentioned earlier, we have goats, I will have also mentioned we live in what was once a swamp.  It is also common knowledge that we have young boys.  Well last night these three factors came together in the most bewildering of events.

Sweetie and Snowy - completely recovered from their ordeal

After a long extended weekend, it came down to doing the last chore – moving the goats. Not a chore relished by either Hubby the Un-Gardener or myself as we can both testify to how much of a punch two D sized batteries can whallop when hooked up to an electric fence.

So the most gorgeous sunset in ages became the back drop for the drama about to unfold. With mozzies nipping at our ankles we climbed the gate into the goat paddock to find them missing! We could hear them but they were nowhere to be seen.

This is where the swamp enters the story, to keep the land “swamp-free” the local area is surrounded by an extensive network of drains and ditches, and the one out the front of our place is exceptionally deep.

This drain goes deep... luckily it wasn't full!

It’s is only through the blessing of a break in the crappy summer weather that the water level was only ankle deep because at the bottom of the drain Sweetie the Goat was down there, crying out for help.  Snowy the Goat was on the wrong side of the wooden fence, which was supposed to be the second line of defence after the electric fence, pacing back and forth along the narrow edge of the drain, full of concern for her friend.

At this point the contribution to this story by the third party is reluctantly admitted.  The boys had been playing hide and seek with friends, and despite having three acres in which to hide, they chose the goat paddock. Having experienced the zap of the fence before, in the wisdom of a child, they decided to switch off the fence to prevent a shock that would interfere with the fun being had!  Needless to say they never switched it back on again or we wouldn’t have ended up with the conundrum before us:  how to get a goat out of the drain.

A picture of innocence...

Hubby the Un-Gardener raced off to get the ladder and I went off in search of a rope.  Putting things back in their proper place isn’t one of our strong points but we are working on it. So while I was doing a frenzied search for rope, Hubby the Un-Gardener had shimmied down the ladder and rescued Sweetie the Goat – fireman style, over his shoulder and so when I got there (without rope) he was standing at the top edge of the drain, with the goat, looking as calm as can be – and I missed it!  I missed all the heroic action – drats!

Goats: cute and lovable or a complete pain in the butt? The jury is still out!

So now the goats are safe and sound eating fresh grass within the confines of the electric fence, the kids have been suitably chastised and we are off to buy goat proof wire fencing to make the wooden fence impenetrable.

Oh the joys of country living!

Come again soon – not to be out done by the goats – the chickens have a tale to tell.  And Hubby the Un-gardener wants to get a cow?! I don’t think we are ready. I don’t think we will ever be ready!

Sarah the Gardener  : o )

Previous blogs mentioning the goats – with cute photos – can be found here and here!

A is for Asparagus and Artichoke

If some of my plants were animals I would have been reported to the SPCA! They are sorely neglected and are only just noticeable in among a thriving crop of weeds. But it’s not my fault – really…

Asparagus, Globe Artichoke and Rhubarb all have something in common in my garden.  Apart from the obvious in that they are a permanent feature and come back year after year and each time they show up I am always so excited to see them, especially as they are the first crops of the season. But then they slow down and eventually stop producing as the weather heats up and my attention  towards them suffers the same fate and by the middle of summer it is safe to say they are completely and utterly ignored.

Just one of last spring's artichoke harvests

This lack of due care and attention is only part of the problem but by reversing this seasonal trend of turning a blind eye, won’t actually solve the problem, so I can ease my conscious ever so slightly, however the major problem still requires my input so this still causes me feelings of guilt and gardening inadequacies.

You see the biggest part of this problem is the dirt!  We live in what was once a swamp and so the soil, while incredibly fertile has a high clay content.  When it’s wet it is wet – it can hold 20 times its weight in water, which is fantastic for reducing the daily chore of watering in the height of summer.  Just water once a week and water deep – job done!  But when it’s dry it is like concrete!

We have to wait a whole 8 months before we can eat these again!

There is a bit of a difference between the artichoke, asparagus and rhubarb beds and all the other 20 odd raised beds in my garden, in that the other beds are regularly dug over and have compost added, the roots of the short lived crops break up the soil and the weed population is dramatically reduced by the continual action, so I have soil in most of my beds that is really starting to be ideal growing conditions!  The artichoke, asparagus and rhubarb beds are never empty, they don’t get turned over, occasionally compost is added to the top, providing a lovely environment for weeds to grow strong and healthy.  In the winter the soil is too wet to weed as the mud sticks to the roots like they have been super glued and in the summer is way too hard to pull them out as using a pick axe may destroy the roots of the good plants!  As a result the soil becomes more and more compacted with the most stubborn weeds known to man!

Jerusalem Artichokes - I didn't realise just how tall it would grow!

In the early winter when I chop down the yellow fronds of the asparagus I have successfully mulched with newspaper to keep the winter weeds away, but once the tender spears start popping up it becomes tricky to maintain the weed free position as the soil hasn’t softened up any and so the problem remains!  Laying newspaper around the other two plants is logistically tricky but without making too many excuses I just haven’t tried it.

Because summer has been so awful, this artichoke thinks it's spring again!

So here is my dilemma, how do I keep the weeds at bay all year round, without compromising the health and wellbeing of my asparagus, rhubarb and artichoke?  Hmm – I need to think about this one…

Come again soon – we have just had the craziest adventure that wouldn’t have happened if we lived the city!

Sarah the Gardener  : o )

My new notebook

I have bought myself a shiny new notebook.  I love new books. As the blank pages call out to me I always vow and declare I will use my very best handwriting and I won’t dog-ear the pages!  By the end – if it doesn’t get abandoned along the way, it’s usually in such a state, barely recognisable from the pristine condition it was when it came into my possession.  But this one was chosen specifically for its ability to absorb a little dirt and become “rustic” as is fulfils its duty as my gardening note book, destined to live in the shed.

Oh, the pearls of wisdom that will be written in here...

No longer will there be notes scribbled on seed packets or grubby scraps of paper containing vital information turned into paper mache within the pockets of the freshly laundered gardening apparel, or even worse – ideas tucked into the leaking sieve of my head with full intentions of being remembered for future reference, only to be completely forgotten forever moments later.  This way if I have anything remotely interesting to record I shall be able to briefly stop what I am doing and pop into the shed – without even taking my boots and gloves off, jot it down and then get back to it with the minimum on disruption to the gardening experience!

So I shall use this wee book in an experimental way to see if this year it actually adds any value.  I am going to record the details of each crop in an alphabetical way instead of the traditional chronological way of a diary.  For example, if I have something to say about carrots ( although I don’t imagine there will be much to say about carrots as they are actually quite boring) then I will turn to the C section and flick across to the carrot page and add it to the wealth of information I would have already placed there.

Carrots - while tasty, are a bit boring to talk about!

Now don’t get me wrong, a gardening diary is also very useful for things like when seeds were sown and when things should be harvested, and what the weather was like etc, but for that random pieces of wisdom (generally gained through a bad experience, although sometimes coming about through a pleasant surprize) that isn’t really specifically related to any particular date but just needs to recorded somewhere to prevent it’s unfortunate re-occurrence, then I think my wee note book will become a precious possession when it comes to understanding the quirks and nuances of gardening in my veggie patch.

A wealth of gardening information

While general information can – and will – be gleaned from the many, many gardening books and magazines I have collected, I hope my notebook will be my voice of wisdom and reason in the seasons to come!

Come again soon – as I fill in the notebook with this seasons “don’t ever do again” and “wonder what I did so I can repeat it” I’ll keep you posted.

Sarah the Gardener  : o )


Gardening Before Breakfast!

It’s February and I’ve just been out and weeded and turned over soil for a new row of peas – all before breakfast.  Normally this foolhardy early morning burst of energy in February is deemed sensible as at this time of year it would be far too hot to garden in the midday heat.  But not this year.  And definitely not today.  I was out there this morning because I was frustrated.  This summer (if you can call it that) has been cold, wet, windy and generally not living up to the expectations of the long hot dry summer holidays I remember from my childhood.

Digging and weeding early in the morning

I haven’t written much about the garden lately, because it would just be a giant moan about how awful it has been.

But I have pulled myself together, and with the kids back at school I can actually hear the thoughts in my head, and they are telling me, gardening is never perfect and there is always next year.  And so with this in mind I am going to shame- faced-idly (is that even a word? – is now) share the horrors of my summer garden, and what went wrong, and the stuff that defied the odds and actually went well.

Not exactly the kind of sky expected in the height of summer!

One of the upsides of a crappy summer is there is a whole lot of learning to do.   So much more of a challenge than a perfect summer where all good things go perfectly!  Although I have to say, my first veggie patch about four summers ago went really well, I give it full credit to me still being here doing it now as each summer since has not been without its challenges, culminating in this one which has by far been the yuckiest!

Straight rows, lawns mowed and ... um ... tidy compost?

I am a person who likes order and things looking nice, which to the people who know me go “Really?”  But it’s true, I like my veggies in rows and the lawns mowed and the compost in bins not piles and my garden spaces orderly. Towards the end of summer when the plants are past their best and there are rogue plant pots and watering cans left where they lay, and weeds in the too hot greenhouse, I tend to give up and walk away for the season, leaving a mountain of work to do in the spring to get ready again.  Well this year I declare publically that THIS YEAR WILL BE DIFFERENT!

I have started down this road already, by clearing out my shed.  My shed is actually new and shouldn’t need clearing out, but in the hurly burly of spring I got into the dreadful habit of just lobbing stuff in there to “sort out later!”

Which is an awful thing to do with my lovely shed that I acquired through hard work, hard saving and the winnings from a blogging gardening competition last year. It’s my dream shed and I finally have it exactly how I want it, and so it is from here that I will be spending my time in serious pontification – planning my next big garden.

.... looking great

Come again soon – I shall endeavour to bring you up to speed as quickly and possible and then regale you with all the exciting stuff to come as it happens!

Sarah the Gardener  : o )

PS:  We have some more tiny baby chickens – hatched yesterday.

Too Cute!

Due to circumstances beyond my control…

I spend all year with great expectations about how wonderful my garden is going to be, and what improvements I’ll make and what I’ll do with the produce and how it’s just all going to be perfect.  And it should be – I put in a lot of planning and hard work.

But our summer is in the worst part of the year for the keen gardener.  It has Christmas, New Year and summer holidays smack bang in the middle of it.

Instead of spending the summer whiling  away the long balmy days tending to the crop and harvesting as things ripen and seeing to the gardens every whim – the week or so preceding Christmas is filled with manic shopping, decorating, baking and a hectic schedule of social engagements.  The garden is lucky if it gets water lobbed at it as I whiz past onto some exciting seasonal party.  Merry Christmas!

"Thank you Santa"

The week between Christmas and New Year is spent on quality time with family, digesting and recovering from the excesses of the Christmas feasting and preparing for the annual holiday.  The garden only receives a cursory glance, which induces feelings of extreme guilt as three weeks of neglect is starting to become evident.  Happy New Year!

You should see how lovely it is when the sun is shining!

Then its ten days at the beach without anything to do but relax.  There isn’t even any gardens to remind me of the ever increasing workload gathering momentum in my absence.  It’s a shame it rained most of the time, but at least we weren’t in a tent.  Apparently the holiday period was the wettest since some record or other was recorded.  Happy days!

On arriving home from our summer holiday, I would like to say tending to the poor neglected garden would be the first thing on the list of TO DO’s for the New Year – but alas no…  Unpacking, sorting out, taking the Christmas tree down and un-decorating and dealing to the mountain of holiday laundry takes priority.  Finally I get to the end of a colossal amount of chores and think – ah tomorrow I’ll turn my attention to the garden and wake up, to the first beautiful day in ages, with a tummy bug!

Not a bad haul - all things considered

So today in a state of semi-recovery I drag myself out there to do a spot of well overdue harvesting.  I managed to gather:  too many too large gherkins, 14 cucumbers, a basket of almost ripe tomatoes (to get them before the birds do) some peas, four large cauliflowers, a handful of black currants.  There is probably more out there – I was too afraid to see what the zukes had done! But I started to feel peaky again and crawled back into bed.

To compound all of this neglect, we are having the wettest summer.  The ground is as wet and soggy as it was in early spring.  This doesn’t bode well for my plants.  They should be dry and reaching for the sun, not being a soggy mess attracting every passing fungal spore!

This isn't supposed to happen in the summer!

So here I am in the height of the growing season.  What I wait for and plan for all year is HERE AND NOW – yet I am restless – thanks to the holidays and the appalling weather the garden isn’t the lush, well organised paradise of vegetable production I was hoping for – it’s damp, soggy, overgrown, untrained, and bordering on feral!  So my thoughts are already drifting towards next year – how it will be oh so perfect – and it will be because I will have put in a whole lot of planning and hard work in.

The cucumbers and melons are unruly and soggy

You can hardly see the tomatoes for the overgrown grass

The peas have been blown over

Goodness only knows what monsters are growing in here!

On the up side I managed to harvest the garlic (90 mostly decent sized bulbs) and an average crop of onions!

Come again soon as I attempt to tame and reclaim some of the joys of summer gardening!

Sarah the Gardener  : o )

Where the heck have I been?

I have been absent for quite some time.  Sorry.

I haven’t been doing nothing, I have been blogging – just not here.  I created 53 blogs over 95 days outlining the ups and downs of spring and early summer veggie growing.  For my efforts I picked up a minor prize of a couple of gardening books.  Yay!  Well it would have been rude to go for the major prize of a $1000 as I won that in the autumn version of the competition last time round!  If you want to check it all out then feel free to click here and see.

I also made a wee movie of my garden and popped it on You Tube showing it at it’s pre-Christmas glory – Before all the seasonal neglect kicked in!  You can see part one here and part two here!

Come again soon – we have some catching up to do!

Sarah the Gardener  : o )

You gotta love living in the country…

Something I was not expecting happened today and I really wanted to share our surprise and excitement.

We had calf club today. This happens in rural schools where kids rear a calf, lamb or goat, and then take them to school and compete for awards and the opportunity to go to the next level:  Group Day, competing against kids from other schools in the area.

Kids and Kids getting ready for Calf Club

Normally we like to have Boomerang lambs – bottle feed them, teach them a few tricks, do the day at school, wean them and give them back to a farmer who really knows how to do the farming stuff.  We can’t really keep them as I have taken down all the fences to build raised beds for the veggie gardens!

The problem is this year the farmers did really well and there weren’t many orphan lambs – which was reflected in the increase in goats at calf club this year.  So we had two wee goats  that featured in an earlier blog and not being farmers, we had put in very little effort, other than feeding the goats and keeping them alive (which was a surprise in itself!)  Off we went  today with no expectations and came home with a cup and a trophy and the title “Agricultural Day 2011 Champion Goat”.  Tim the Helper was as shocked as we were!  We hadn’t even groomed them and apparently you are supposed to!

The proud owner of a Champion Goat

It all went well on the circuit for Tim the Helper his goat lead around the obstacle course well and Snowy came when called – although it started by eating grass so we thought – no chance but she looked up and went running to Tim the Helper.  Then the goats were checked over for “rearing” which is how well they have been looked after and how healthy they are.  The friend who found them for us told us they were actually pure breeds so maybe I should have gone to just a little more effort!

Tim the Helper and Snowy - a great team

So Tim the Helper ended up with a red ribbon for leading and calling and a blue ribbon for rearing. (for those not au fait with country speak – that’s two 1sts and a 2nd).

The Joeyosaurus had a more difficult day.  Sweetie runs rings around him and so when it came to the big day she was having nothing to do with it and was stubbornly dragged about the course.  Even the judge tapped her butt with his foot to move her along!  In the end wee Joeyosaurus ended up picking her up and carrying her off the course!

Sweetie really didn't want to do this today.

Although Sweetie has a mind of her own – she does love Joe and so when it came to calling, she had a quick taste of the grass and then headed off straight towards him.  He struggled with her collar and then she wouldn’t leave the arena, but they got a blue ribbon for their efforts.  For the rearing category Joey got 4th.  Man I really should have given them a shampoo and blow dry!  So all in all the Joeyosaurus got a blue and a light blue ribbon.

Then while the judges deliberated, Hubby the Un-Gardener took on the role of entertaining the crowds doing his quick fire raffle thing and then prize giving came along and they kept calling Tim the Helpers name – he got a trophy and purple ribbon for Champion Goat and a rather large cup and purple ribbon for Champion Goat Leading.  I don’t think I’ve ever had a cup or trophy for anything!  He also got a light purple ribbon for reserve champion for goat calling!

Quite a successful day. The Joeyosaurus is holding Tim the Helpers trophy as he had too much to hold.

So Tim the Helper is definitely through to Group Day after the school holidays, but by some small miracle or the blessing of being in a small school The Joeyosaurus also qualified for Group Day!  I think I need to learn how to groom goats!    The thing with working with animals and small children is you never know how it will go on the day and there is every chance the  Joeyosaurus could come away with Champion Goat at Group Day – you never know.

But all in all a great day was had by all and all four Kids are exhausted!  Living is the country is the coolest thing!

Competing is such hard work when you are only 7 weeks old!

Come again soon – the garden is really coming on and the weather is warming up – its so exciting at this time of year!

Sarah the Gardener  : o )

I feel like I am walking a fine line in a balancing act and may spread myself too thin.

It may look cold and empty - but soon it will be a thriving jungle!

The problem is I love my garden.  I’m not the greatest gardener in the world and my garden can best be described as “rustic.”  But it is my little slice of paradise that I can indulge myself, taking comfort from the knowledge that my family are being fed food that is not only healthy, fresh, has a low carbon footprint, low air miles, is cheap and of a variety that we wouldn’t normally be able to buy.  (I mean – I have TWO kinds of artichoke! One I’ve never seen at the supermarket and the other I have but it would blow the budget right out of the water.)  And it is spring.  What better time to be a gardener with a whole season full of promise ahead.

Artichoke - the first of many.

I also love to write about my garden.  I really enjoy coming inside in the evening and sitting down and my keyboard and weaving a story about my efforts (or more frustrating – the lack of effort).  I revel in the challenge of making something as mundane as spreading poop onto the cold damp soil that will soon be home to the most delicious varieties of tomato, into a tale that would be a joy to read about and even possibly make someone laugh with me.  I want to share my proud moments and my downfalls with someone – anyone.

New season tomatoes - waiting in the wings

But at the same time it doesn’t matter if no one actually reads it.  I’ve done my best and put it out there and I feel good.  Although I have to admit it does feel really cool when people actually do read it!

It all seems quite simple and straight forward – I garden, I write, I share.  But the crux of the problem is there is too much sharing going on and I couldn’t possibly cut back as it all has a place.

Strangely (and I really can’t figure this one out) but not all my friends or family are into gardening.  Some don’t even have gardens! Shocking I know!  But this means they only really humour me when I rabbit on excitedly about my latest antics, so I need an outlet, and have come up with 3.

The greenhouse - before I started running out of space!

My favourite one is here, because there are no constraints on me.  I can share as often as I like on any topic of my choosing and it is secretly exciting to think someone on the other side of the world might read this.  I spent all winter reading with a mix of envy and inspiration the summer gardening endeavours of others in the northern hemisphere and I really want to repay the favour so in the depths of winter someone can reach into my blog and briefly feel the warmth of the summer sun.

The other place I am currently sharing is much more constrained and local.  I love to hang out in the virtual pages of a local gardening competition.  I won it last time, so I’m not trying to win it again (gardeners are such nice friendly people), I just want to hang out with gardeners who all keep coming back to the same place for the 3rd season.  Others have won before also, and some are still trying to win, but it is seasonal and the advice and the support flows freely.  However to receive the support and the feedback you need to stay noticed, which means blogging regularly – at best I’m doing it every other day and will be until it ends on Christmas eve, and I also need votes – but not too many – just enough to stay noticed but not so many that it looks like I am trying to steal the prize money out of the hands of another well deserving gardener. The creative cost is quite high – you need to be seen to be using certain products and growing certain seeds to remain eligible.  But it is such a nice friendly place to be that I’ll be there until the jolly man in red drops gardening gifts down my chimney!

The goats are growing - Tim the helper with Snowy.

The last place I like to be online is you tube – although I am very camera shy and tend to make funny faces by accident when filming myself. But I am so proud at what I have achieved with what was once a bare paddock that I want to show people.  I also have the same northern / southern hemisphere thing going on and have a couple of subscribers anxiously waiting for the visions of summer whilst surrounded by snow.

Sweetie runs rings around The Joeyosaurus!

So if you can’t find me here you could find me here or here…  I’ll be around somewhere – telling someone something about my garden.

Come again soon – the sun is warming up and there is bound to be something I “just have to share”

Sarah the Gardener  : o )

What is that splash of red in among the daffodils?

It’s not really possible to plant ‘all year round plants’ directly into our ground – unless they are suited to being submerged for a couple of months!  It has been suggested I grow rice in the off season.  Normally around this time of year the ground is a soggy boggy mess but this year I thought it would be different.

It had been dry for weeks and strangely ­– while still damp – the soil in the raised beds had started to crack!  I was able to mow around the beds and things were looking great.  It would be an awesome start to spring – warm and dry.  Until last week.  Boy did it rain – and rain – and rain.  A whole week of rain, with little chance of a let up. In the 10 day forecast with showers predicted for almost every day.

Soggy and Boggy

Now I need “boat shoes” to get about the garden.  Actually it’s my gumboots I need.  I had decided I didn’t need them any more this season and cast them aside (not upside down on the boot rack), preferring slip on gardening shoes.  This hasty laziness had serious repercussions.  Just when I needed them most, they had filled with water.  There was nothing for it but to pour water out and put plastic bags in so my socks would stay dry.

Bag lined boots!

Most of my gardening energies have been focussed on vegetables and edible crops as I learned to master the art of providing year round produce for our family and now I feel as confident as you can when there are variables such as weather, pest and disease, I have decided this season to explore the floral side of gardening.

I already have a small collection of spring bulbs and flowers in buckets with holes in the bottoms, up on my deck as putting them directly into the sodden soil would have as much chance of flowering as popping a dollar coin in the ground and growing a money tree (although one of those would be lovely).

one dollar

I also have a small raised bed on the edge of the veggie patch that is loaded with spring bulbs and self-seeded poppy seeds.  The rule of thumb is to sow poppies on ANZAC day in April and take time to remember those who gave their lives for us and then get a wonder display of red flowers in the spring and summer.

I have been so focused on the tulips and daffodils and other robust spring flowers that the thought of a flower that seems so delicate was far from my mind.  Until the other morning when I looked out from my bed across to my garden.  (The spring display is cleverly arranged so that it can be enjoyed every morning from the warmth and comfort of bed.)  Well there it was – a splash of red!  What could it be?  I decided it must have been some rubbish blown there by the howling wind that accompanied the rain and decided not to get out of bed to investigate as the temperature had also dropped when the wind and rain came, and I wasn’t ready to allow my cosy feet to come in contact with the cold floor.

What's that red thing?

The wind and rain briefly died during the day and the sun came out for the shortest time and so I nipped outside to remove the “rubbish” only to find it was a beautiful – if not slightly bedraggled poppy.

It's a flower!

The first Poppy

Excited about the prospect of a fragrant sea of beautiful colour – I have sown heaps of flower seeds.  I figure I now have 6 weeks to decide where to put them and then make raised beds so they don’t drown!

Come again soon – there may be a laugh of two to be had, watching me learn floral gardening!

Sarah the Gardener : o )

The baby chickens are growing bigger everyday


Brandy is a great Mum

Potting Up Seedlings

Just a quick wee message:

The first lot of seedlings are ready to be transferred from the seed raising mix into their own little pots.

Check out my You Tube movie showing how I did it.

Click on the link above to watch my movie

There is even a clip of the baby chickens going “peep peep peep!”

Come again soon – for more tales of how this spring is unfolding.

Sarah the Gardener : o )

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