April

An April of delays and dry for the 2 folk, the dog and the tractor.  The early signs of autumn were stopped in their tracks here as rains failed to materialise.  Our weather has been cool, stunning, clear and bright as well as pretty dusty.

When we plan out a year of farm work, house build and garden planting we try to not overload any particular time of the year.  This year the best laid plans have been sent asunder with the odd climate we have been experiencing.

Plan: February and March are months dominated by fantastic kitchen garden yields, in particular the tomato harvest.  In the last March post, I lamented how the wonderful tomato crop looked like it was running out of time to ripen before the frosts of April arrived.  How wrong I was.  The warmer than normal conditions have seen the crop peak in April and I am harvesting 5kg a day of the most picture perfect fruit.

There are no complaints here.  The house is swamped by all manner of vessels overflowing with beautiful tomatoes.  It’s a daily mission to process the tomatoes into meals, soups, sauces, and chutneys.  Friends and neighbours are now receiving kilos of tomatoes as gifts.  This is all really wonderful.

Plan: April and May are my garlic crop planting months.  April is the month of continued bed preparation, cracking bulbs, counting and preparing cloves for planting.  This is when I get to revel in the beauty of the cloves, get hands dirty in the soil and generally play garlic farmer.

But the Plan is out the window! No happy garlic idyll for April. It has been too warm and dry to plant cloves out, at least not without an irrigation plan, something that is not usually required here.  So the plan to plant garlic over Easter was shifted to a week later when the temperatures dropped below 25 degrees C during the day.  Rain is due tonight and we have everything crossed in the hope of some coming our way.

The vegetable garden continues to thrive, as it receives supplementary watering, and the warm weather means crops keep producing.  So there is this cross over between summer crops and autumn crops, tomatoes alongside broccoli, garlic coming up amongst the tarragon. Its just plain freaky!

Fresh produce from the kitchen garden this month includes tomatoes, kale, spinach, peas, cucumbers, rhubarb, spring onions, chives, parsley, tarragon, rosemary, thyme and sage.  The broccoli heads are forming, the brussel sprouts have survived the grazing and the succession pea plants are just sprouting.

The garlic paddock planting has started.  This year the focus was on improving the soil nutrition and we spent a lot of time applying layers of organic matter, manure and soil additives.  This year the cloves were pre-soaked before planting. Pre-soaking the cloves in a seaweed and microbial solution is a great way to combat planting stress, encourage strong root growth (and in turn enable better soil nutrient uptake by the plant), and provides a bit of inoculation against fungal issues on the clove or in the soil. Our method is to use 25ml of Seasol and 50ml of EM1 Bokashi liquid, diluted into 1 litre of water.  I can’t over state the difference it made to the cloves.

These cloves were soaked for 36hrs (don’t extend soaking beyond 72hrs) and they had already produced roots at the base. It makes it so very obvious now why I need to keep the water up to them, for the plant and to ensure the nutrients in the soil are made available to the plant.  Where is that rain?

Planting in April is about the early season garlic.  May is about the mid and late season garlic.  We are effectively half way through planting the crop.  They are bedded in under 10cms of straw mulch.  This year we fluffed the mulch, unfortunately, the next day the wind picked up. There is straw everywhere but on the actual garlic beds.  I doubt there is a solution here that does not involve construction of some kind of windbreak – but that is our whole focus here!

The owner-builder adventure continues albeit hard to show.  We have used solid Tasmanian Blackwood timber around the windows and doors.  It looks fantastic, but it is very hard to photograph in a way that reveals its significance to the build.  Very early on in the project, we read the finishing stage would take the most time and money of the build.  We did not realise it would also have the least impact on us.  Seeing it actually finished is very, very wonderful and yet we are rather blase about it all, almost as if it had always been there. Is it possible that our vision of the finished house is what we always saw regardless of the amount of unfinished wall, bolts and structural steel on show? Or maybe we just know there is still so much more to do! Celebrate each tiny advance is a fair motto in such a mammoth project.

Easter of course! We do not practice any religion in our house but are lucky enough to live in a country that recognises this holiday period.  It is a time to tackle big jobs or even plant the garlic crop but this year weather and travel commitments saw us very much eating, resting and spending time with our friends as we put hard work on the back burner.  I made my first panettone, a significantly belated event given how many of these I have eaten over the years, and of course a batch of hot cross buns (sans cross).  Both of these wonderful, easy and successful bakes came courtesy of Nadine Ingham of Flour and Stone bakery fame.  I am a convert, both bakes will be happening again very soon, to help me celebrate garlic planting at the very least.

Book list April

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All are truly wonderful books this month

 

I read this quote on Sarah Wilson’s Instagram page, it is with deep admiration and mirth I gift this to you my friends…

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fast asleep on the door step, waiting

 

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thanks for reading!

 

December

December in which the 2 folk, the dog and the tractor work around the rain and a Christmas full of comfort and joy.

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Rain is a good thing with caveats

The thing about rain and rural life – well it’s just not straightforward as “Yay, it’s raining!”  If you have a farmer in your life, drill down on their thoughts on rain, and not just the polite conversation assimilation commentary.  I’d also ask you withhold judgment if they seem a bit, well, Pollyanna, here’s my take…and my experience is embryonic.

When we lived in the city rain was really only seen as something that might impact on whatever social/sporting event we may have had planned.

When we went rural as a ‘lifestyle choice’ rain became something that was good because it helped the grass grow.

After a while, we realised the grass is really pasture and needs more than rain to grow, so we brought in livestock to help improve the soil, which along with the rain, improves the pasture (see earlier posts).

So here we are, 5 years on, with livestock, garlic crop and pasture to grow.  Rain is a mixed bag now – what matters is the quantity, type and timing.  Yes, we celebrated the December falls, however, it cost me my peace of mind.

I fretted because rain and warm weather brings out the bugs, debilitating sheep and causing fungal disease in garlic to become rampant. Last year I lost a significant portion of a stunning garlic crop to rot whilst curing, a lesson that is protecting this year’s crop beautifully.  This year we had our first experience of fly strike on a sheep.  Timely action and an experienced farmer means all is well. Positive outcome yes…however, I was left struggling with thoughts of ‘how to dispatch sheep humanely’, and this has not been resolved. This is one of those skills you just dread having to acquire, but to be able to do so humanely and respectfully is something I aspire too, which sounds most odd to say.

Furthermore, if it had not rained, well then other concerns would have filled the void and cost me my peace of mind! Perhaps there is something else going on here?  See one last thing…

Our sheep husbandry skills continue to grow.  After the last drenching session, the 2 folk were wormed thoroughly but significantly the same thing could not be said about the sheep.  More ended up on the two of us than actually down the necks of the sheep.  However this session, either the sheep were more comfortable, or the few lessons paid off, but the job is done, done well and in good time.  So with the slightest of swaggers, sheep drenching – √.  Never going to nail shearing but happy to settle for the ‘taking part with enthusiasm’ certificate.

We had our first experience of foraging, which I posted on Instagram @longview_garlic  about finding a summer gold bounty of apricots. It is a story of disbelief, joy and a happy place…but not gluttony. Mind you I was not the only one to spy the bounty and I think local folk moved fast to secure fruit before a travelling stock group made their way past the tree.

Garlic beds are empty – harvest 2018 is complete.  I thought I would be pulling the last of the garlic in Jan but after flashing around some pics and listening to those with more experience than me, this year the late season garlic got pulled a month early.  Once again it’s a mixed bag but I’m told it’s very normal to expect a distribution of bulb sizes in a crop.  I am grateful I had the wherewithal to plant a ‘test bed’ of the late season crop as I had no experience growing it.  The testbed crop seriously outperformed the paddock crop and clearly showed me the soil in the paddock beds needs much more work to bring it up to scratch.  This will take me years to perfect. I still felt seriously deflated at the lack of brilliance in the paddock crop – classic reality check, again so very grateful I started a MICRO enterprise.

Christmas was a really lovely event.  Gentle, quiet and indulgent involving well-behaved humans and dogs, special food and simple decorations that hit the mark beautifully.  We avoided the hectic Christmas rush, gift shopping was via online at rural stores, other gifts were handmade so could not be rushed and food shopping was whittled down to specific farmers market stalls or purchased locally at farm shops. The pic of the real tree is more for posterity. It’s my way of marking progress on the house because if you look at the walls in the background, they are ready for lining with the Blackwood panels.  Last year they were bare corrugated metal.  Progress is progress and patience is torturous! It is also the first year I got my way and tree decorations were kept to fairy lights only. Simple and uncomplicated.

December booklist

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Books in printed form

The book list this month is in printed form because the audible form did not get a turn. I’m trying to work out how to incorporate listening to a book whilst still getting things done. The potential is properly inviting but I’ve not adjusted.  Same with podcasts. I suspect whilst driving has potential if the internet connection is maintained and I can avoid earbuds.  Working around the house will require earbuds as I’ve noticed noise from any activity interferes with the wondrous world being created for me. The simplicity of just picking up a book is being redefined. When did it become important to multi-task whilst reading? I’m not sure my brain can do that.

One last thing

We will never rid ourselves of anxiety entirely; our best bet is to try to give ourselves slightly more valuable things to worry about.

School of Life, cards on resilience 2018

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I like how the sheep calm each other with touch and closeness. If in need of comfort just bury your head into a friend and go zen…

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