Sunday, 8 October 2017

Spring has sprung - more like pole vaulted!

It's been an incredibly dry winter with little rain at Upsidownimal Farm. Spring then lasted about three days and now we're into summer. It's still be very dry but thankfully last week we got some decent rain and everything brown is green again.

My gardens are, well blooming. I'm having to spend at least a few hours every weekend to keep on top of things and if I don't harvest every week, I'll lose things.

Some veges like BokChoy and a few of the lettuces just bolted but I've managed to be really lucky with most things so far. There is plenty of silverbeet, the spinach, pak chop and mizuna were a real success. And the sugar snap peas dwarf beans were devine and plentiful. I've now planted another crop of peas and will drop in a second row soon so that I don't run out (you can never have enough peas in a garden!).

Eggplants galore (and there's about 6 plants - this is only one)
There's lots of mixed salad leaves to harvest from and we are eating fresh salads quite a few times during the week.

I'm hoping to focus pretty heavily this year on three main plants - tomatoes, chilli and basil. I've planted about 40 tomato plants - all of different varieties but mainly heritage ones - and I think we'll have our first harvest in the next week or so. Although I appear to have a bit of competition from possibly a bandicoot so I'll be pulling out the trap in the next few days to convince him to move on. It's a catch and release trap so he'll just be finding a new home - far away from my tomatoes. The chilli and basil has been planted in the bath tubs and I also threw some chilli and basil seeds in the ground a few weeks ago that are starting to pop their wee green heads through the soil.

Chilli and basil in old baths surrounded by bricks
The coffee trees are blooming again and still growing. I'm not sure how big they'll get but they're only two - three years old and a good 4 metres tall. Gonna' need a ladder this year...

Coffee trees flowering
I also recently started bringing home the used coffee grinds from a coffee shop next to my work (thanks to the guys and girls from Tonic). These are really high in nitrogen and grubs hate it so I sprinkle it around the lettuce and, if I ever have another crack at brassicas I'll have it everywhere. I also bring home a big box carrot peelings every Wednesday from a local Vietnamese Deli and that got to the donkeys, a neighbours horse and a friends' two cows (one who was previously called Sirloin - you might remember him, although he's not so miniature now...).

I've got big hopes for these wee beans
The donkeys are still contributing with their contribution to the weed juice container a few years ago. The stuff in that bin is gold!

We've also got ourselves some bee hives, so I'm planting more flowers and flowering herbs like borage amongst the veggies to encourage them. The bees love the water fountain. Everything does seems to be growing better since they arrived.

Wild dogs are a bit of a problem this year again in the area, they seem to surge in numbers every few years and this year they are everywhere. It's not much a problem for us because we no longer have chickens. I really miss not having them but I refuse to feed the local fox and wild dog population. On an upshot, I don't need those ugly fences around my gardens anymore. But I miss the chooker moles...

We'll also be running some more dog fence around another large section of the bottom yard in a few weeks time. This will mean the dogs have more space to run and play. Bella still has to stay inside during the day and be supervised whilst outside - she's little enough to be eagle fodder around here.

I've planted corn too, a couple of varieties including a blue corn (can't wait to see how that comes out). First harvest will be next week.

Seed saving
MOTH is making pesto right now. The basil has been prolific the last two weeks... love it! I'd eat it every day if I could.

There's also been a few introductions and trails that I've always wanted to have a crack at. I bought a pepper vine and, after a bit of a slow start, he's off and running. He will grow along the fence between the top and bottom garden beds. I've also grown my my first pumpkin. It was nice. So, have dropped some more seeds on the far side of the compost to see what we can grow. I'm also planning on trying to grow some loofahs (something different), tamarillos (or tree tomatoes if you're from NZ) and my ultimate  challenge - a vanilla plant.

Pepper vine
I think the garden is finally looking like I'd imagined it to be way back when I first started planting it. It was looking quite destitute about six months ago but there's a wee story about that. In March I injured my ankle and had an ankle reconstruction in May. The garden was suffering from my lack of attention and so I found the most amazing woman to come and help me out. Without Tab's help I wouldn't be writing this blog today, it would have all been made into lawn. She's a breathe of fresh air and has done wonders for the garden. We're back to producing food for the house and plenty of extra for friends - all part of why we do it, right? There is nothing more satisfying than taking a bunch of fresh veggies to a friends place and saying that you grew it.

At the end of the day, I love getting covered in dirt - I think I really am an Earth child...

Top garden

Bottom garden bed
Top 4 garden beds
Bottom garden bed has an urn feature you can look down to from the house 
Alternative view of top garden beds surrounded by bush rocks

Wednesday, 16 August 2017


Gosh, it's been so long since I last posted that I forgot another, very important and unexpected loss to Upsidownimal Farm.

Roman was suddenly and very unexpectedly taken from us in June last year. He had developed a tumour on his heart and suddenly went downhill. I had no alternative but to put him to sleep. It was quite a shock and incredibly difficult time.

This image best sums up Roman

OK, so he might have been a bit special

Don't all dogs do this in the hydro bath?

The hole in our lives was huge. I didn't realise show much sense of security and piece of mind a male dog provides you. It was a real problem for us.

We solved this issue with a new introduction to Upsidownimal Farm (next post) ... soon I promise...

Forgive me - it's been more than a year since I posted a blog...

Gosh, a whole year!

Well, I can genuinely tell you there's been a few reasons why.

Last year I got struck down with a shitty breathing (OK, couldn't breathe) thing that, after a few months, landed me in hospital. So, that was winter and spring... Summer was hot, damn hot... and in March I took an unexpected wee tumble and caused some pretty serious damage to my foot and ankle. Move forward to May and post ankle reconstruction surgery, I was in a moon boot and on crutches for way longer than anyone would like. It's now August and, thank to lots of physio and supporting therapies, love and tenacity I'm now (kinda') walking (almost like a normal person, not really) but generally on level even surfaces - which isn't great when you live on the side of a mountain. Firefighting is off limits still #frustrating.

The consequences of this have been many but the one I want to share with you has been my beloved garden. From March to June it lay completely untended until I had a brainy idea and hired a gardener. Introducing the wonderful Tabs. Tabs is a Swiss Goddess who has been my arms and legs in my gardening pursuits and passions over the past few months. She has dug, planted, mulched, fertilised and nurtured our vege garden back to a producing contribution to our kitchen. The herbs (of course) mainly survived the lack of love but most of the veges simply disappeared while I had be laid up. Now, it's looking just like I had planned it to be in late summer last year - ready for us to harvest and cultivate in coming seasons.

Anyway, let's have a look at the garden...

Here's a small snapshot of the lower garden
Looks like comfrey is our sacrificial plant this season. This stuff grows abundantly so I'm OK with losing a bit.
Compost heap has been well replenished
Coffee trees had a bumper crop this year but unfortunately I couldn't harvest them at the  optimal time  (this  is a late fruiting)
A very rare sighting of MOTH (man of the house) in the wild
Peas! (thanks for the rio Brad)
Not everything goes to plan. The early heatwave (it was more than 30 degrees here today AND IT'S STILL WINTER) has caused a few things to bolt and seed. Will be saving seeds for next year (earlier planting a must).
Anyone guess what this is? Hint: used in  spicy food
I can see olives in my future...
My favourite plant at the moment - beetle leaf
My precious baby - a pepper vine. May it grow and prosper @ Clear Mountain
So, I'm still alive. Unfortunately we did have a loss in this department a few months ago. Our lady of the mountain, Dogue de Bordeaux. Baillie was put to sleep from old age and some pretty aggressive cancer - a decision made by not wanting her to suffer. I'd had he since a puppy (she was nearly 11 which is an amazing age for a giant breed dog) and we all miss her terribly (including the other dogs). Thankfully though, she's taken pride of place in the orchard and is still up for a chat whenever I feel like one.

Yes, at one stage we had 3 Dogues (Baillie, Roman and Harley)

She was so patient

Baillie and Bella (now officially a terrorist)

RIP Baillie x

Monday, 2 May 2016

Fat fish, coffee beans, lots of lemons and lots of compost

Another weekend ended, another sense of achievement. 

Special thanks to our neighbour, Mitch who popped up on his tractor this morning to do some tractoring (his has a bucket, ours doesn't). Unfortunately he broke when he was helping unload the trailer and has hurt his back. Wishing you a speedy recovery Mitch.

But his handy work was well appreciated. He took out an unsuccessful garden bed to open up the patio outside the downstairs apartment. I'm going to drop some turf on this next weekend.

OK, first dilemma - fat fish. A few years ago I put about 30 fingerlings (the edible kind - sleepy cod, silver perch and eel tail catfish) into our water fountain pond. They were less than 5 cm long. They're now plate sized but, because of too many fish in the pond, general consensus is that they're over nitrogenised and potentially toxic to eat. So... what to do with the fishy wishys. Options are to drain the pond and try and catch them, then relocate them to a neighbours dam where they can live a long and happy life (Lord knows how, our driveway if very very steep). Negotiations will include fishing rights. If we do this, I'll be able to clean out the pond (read cattle trough) and start again with less, ornamental fish. Apart from begin a really nice focal point on our driveway, the bees love it and I'm more than happy to make the bees happy. I would love love love to have some bee hives but am very allergic to  stings.

Harvest time today for the turmeric. I got about 1-2 kilos and several rhizomes for replanting and sharing. That's more than $100 of turmeric. Seriously worth looking at planting, it's a lovely plant with really pretty flowers. We will chop it into 1cm chunks and freeze. 

A bit of planting... (actually, there was a lot of planting)

Some boasting (check out the size of one of my parsley)

And the gum trees are flowering (makes me think of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie - overseas visitors will need to Google this)

Oh, and Lots of Lemons they said... (tick), dwarf tree (not so apparent) 

All this gardening, of course, means excessive compost. Woo hoo!

Exciting news, out first harvest of coffee beans is nearly ready for harvesting. MOTH (man of the house) is very excited about this. Four more coffee trees being planted next weekend.

I previously posted about a couple of old baths that I mounted in old red bricks. The intention was to use them as strawberry beds (which is going really well and am expecting our first crop next season). Have also added some chilli bushes to the baths and, good news, they're going great. Never thought this companion planting combination would be so successful.

Next weekend, I'm harvesting our significant ginger crop (about 2m squared). Keen for ideas of how to preserve ginger.

And, the roses need a good pruning - they're out of control and very unattractive.

Another quiet weekend in the country - can't wait to get back to work tomorrow for a break.

Monday, 25 April 2016

Gardening with donkeys

Apart from the obvious benefit that donkeys provide for the garden, they can actually be a bit of fun while you're gardening if you plan it right (and nothing unplanned happens - like a low flying aeroplane or any sudden noise, really).

For some reason, fresh donkey poo doesn't seed like horse poo does. But I still don't put it directly onto my garden because it's, well, lumpy and doesn't break down well. So I add it to my weed juice container (refer previous post here).

Yesterday, the boys helped out with a few other things.

Firstly Guinness mowed the lawn. Now you have to be careful with this, he loves cooch and will rip it out by the roots, leaving large bald spots on the lawn (we learnt this last winter).

Then they both helped me moving the palm fronds to the compost heap.

I think Caruso thought this was the best part of the day. I'm always careful not to give them too much of anything that's not in their natural diet but they do enjoy a pile of sweet potato leaves, a couple of banana leaves or boysenberry cuttings.

Finally, there was a little unscheduled rosemary hedge pruning.

I was a little over zealous last time I pruned it with the trimmers and it's taking a while to kick back. Might need some weed juice.

Roman was supposed to help but couldn't drag his sorry ass off the day bed (seriously, that Dogue thinks he's a Shitzu!)

MOTH took down #5 of 7 huge palm trees that have been leeching the goodness out of my veggie garden beds. It was HUGE and didn't come down without some effort. Thankfully it landed exactly where it was originally supposed to (we had several contingencies).

And finally, all of the diggy dogs were very excited last Sunday when Colin M Schnauzer, Claudia and their baby brother Zed (a 4 month old Russian Black Terrier who will end up making Roman look like a midget) came over for the afternoon. After initial greetings and bouts of bossiness and jealous from the little one, everyone had a lovely afternoon. It was impossible to get a good photo, they didn't stop moving!

Life is never dull at Upsidownimal Farm...