Saturday, May 30, 2009


I photographed this gossamer earlier this month. It was about 4cm across, about as large as they get. These little webs are seasonal and I have no idea what animal creates them.

It has been raining. And any time it stops and my heavy soil starts to dry out, it rains again. Now I wouldn't have a problem with this, except that I can't plant anything! Though I did manage to put a few of my native plants in before the rain started, as well as a Salvia 'Black Knight'.

There are plenty of vegies to go in, but in particular, I'm itching to try peas again. Mine seem to be eaten by microscopic creatures before they can germinate, and this time I was going to sprinkle dolomite in the trench before planting. Peas -- theoretically -- are an easy vegetable crop. You plant them, water them in (or plant them just before rain), give them a week's sun, and up they come. Except here, where nothing comes up!

One of my happiest garden memories is of racing down to my Dad's vegetable patch with my sister to devour peas straight off the plant. I'm not sure that we ever cooked fresh peas; if we had enough, there'd be a plate of pods on the table to shell and eat raw as part of lunch. My children haven't had that experience yet... perhaps this year? When the rain stops?

Sunday, May 17, 2009

No Photo Today

I was going to take one, really, but I forgot. And I've just peeled it, cut it up and put it in the oven to bake! Sorry!

I harvested some kumara a week ago. Kumara is what we call the orange-fleshed sweet potato (it's the Maori word). I chopped the end off a shop kumara last spring and popped it into my garden, and it has been happily growing ever since, without supplementary water. The kumara aren't totally ripe yet: apparently I should wait until the leaves yellow -- but I've dug up a few anyway.

We discovered that freshly-dug kumara doesn't have much taste, but leaving it to sit a week gives you the flavour you expect. If you want to store kumara for any length of time, there is a recommended curing process given here. I'm just going to leave the tubers in the ground until a week before I need them.

When I was a kid, sweet potatoes were always white. Kumara from New Zealand started making their appearance in the early 1980s, if I remember rightly. They became popular because they were cheap, less likely to have strings than the white kind, and stayed an attractive colour when cooked. Nowadays, there's also a purple-skinned white sweet potato. I think it's the best-tasting of the three: it's reminiscent of chestnuts, and I like the mealiness. But growing the kumara was easy.

The plant I grew is a pretty (if rampant) vine with heart-shaped leaves and mauve morning-glory flowers. Hardly surprising as the sweet potato is Ipomoea batatas, from the same family as morning glory flowers. Growing sweet potato would be a fun gardening project for a child in a mild climate.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

When it All Goes Well

When your vegies grow in ideal conditions, they can grow very fast.

I took this picture of my newly-planted seedlings on April 3rd.

Here they are again on May 4th...

Some pak choy from the first shot have been eaten already, and we had a few more in our stir-fry last night. You can see that the broccoli and cabbage (blue leaves) are doing well, but not ready to eat, while the pak choy and the lettuces are. During the month, beetroot and celery seedlings were put in. There are a few tiny dill seedlings coming up, and I'm hoping for chervil in there somewhere. This is what guild planting -- and eating -- is meant to be like!

My garden usually doesn't look as good as this, but the April temperature and rainfall were just right for the plants. They were also just right for snails, which accounts for the holes chomped in the outer brassica leaves. I have pulled off a few cabbage white caterpillars and fed them to the chooks, but they weren't in vast numbers.

I am now awaiting pea seedlings anxiously. My luck with them is minimal...

A Sense of Entitlement

On Monday, Rhonda at Down-To Earth posted about the attitude you need to live well on less. She comments:
One of the things that is needed now is to overcome this sense of entitlement that many people feel. They see others with fine houses and possessions to fill them, they think that is "normal" and they should have it too... If you live your life for and through your possessions you will not be living to your potential. You will be constrained by your focus being on paying for your life.
I'd like to suggest that it's the focus of the feeling of entitlement that is the problem. People who feel entitled to expensive houses just don't feel entitled to nice eggs.

I became tired of shop-bought eggs where the pallid yolks broke and the whites ran over the pan like water. I still can't understand why supermarket eggs are never fresh; you'd think they'd have to get new ones in from time to time! Knowing the conditions under which commercial layers are kept made me even less happy about eating shop eggs (I buy free range, but there is no Australian standard to ensure free-range poultry are kept the way I'd prefer).

I am entitled to have fresh eggs that have been produced by happy hens. And now I do. We own the hens.

But do that, I had to think, "I am not satisfied with this situation. How could I change it?" and feel that I was entitled to both ask the question and make the change.

Sometimes, people are so caught up in doing-what-they-do that they don't consider whether there are alternatives. A prime example is the depressing family life described in this article. Now I live in Sydney, and I cannot understand why this family are choosing to live this way. They could remove a good deal of stress from their lives with one simple step: moving closer to the wife's workplace. Petersham and Epping house prices are not dissimilar (I've just checked a real estate guide), but Epping gives the wife a commuting time of 15 mins or less. That's a lot of stress removed and a lot of time added with the child. The poor kid might get a healthy meal occasionally, too.

I realised something for myself recently: as I work three days a week, I cannot have my home clean for the weekend if I am out on the other two weekdays. For my own sanity, I must commit to one weekday at home a week. As simple as that, but it has taken me nearly two years to work it out.

What's making you dissatisfied with your life? What can you do to change it? Are you focussing in the wrong place?

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Bit of a Catch-Up

April was a busy month, as you can probably tell by the absence of posts!

We went to Katoomba Easter Convention, as usual, and took the boys on a short bushwalk near Katoomba Falls on Good Friday, and out to Pulpit Rock at Blackheath on Easter Sunday. When we told the boys that we'd be going home the next day, they both cried. The Twig and the Sprig don't garden much, but they love bushwalking.

At the end of the school holidays we went to Stanwell Tops for a day with the Cumberland Unichurch houseparty. In the afternoon, we went for... a little bushwalk!

Back in the back yard, Annie began to lay eggs last week. Here are some of her eggs (she is laying daily) with a 55g egg for comparison. Her eggs weigh about 45g. The boys had some for tea this evening and assure me that they are delicious.

Then one morning I found Clarabel dead in the chook dome, with no signs of injury or ill health. Within the week, we had also lost Millie the guinea pig to a longstanding tumour. The Sprig just accepts these things without much distress, but the Twig was heartbroken at two deaths so close together.

Yesterday, we bought a friend for Lilac. Dandelion was the nerviest guinea pig in the shop. She jumps a mile at any sound, hates being picked up and is generally difficult... When she is calmer, I'll post her photo.