April

Here at our place, April only hinted at autumn. ANZAC day is the “You won’t look like a wimp if you put a fire on now” day. But this year you would have received some sideways looks because the weather has been unseasonably warm and dry. If there is no rain, the temperatures are still above 25°C, no frosts and soil temperatures and moisture are more like those associated with summer – do we still call it autumn?

For me, a positive has meant the extra sunshine and warmth continue to keep us in tomatoes. I certainly don’t broadcast my positive read of this situation – it shows a complete lack of regard for the seasoned farmers whose livelihoods depend on key weather events. So I just keep preserving the tomatoes…

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Myth buster! Tomatoes do not need to stay on the vine to ripen. Pick with a blush on the shoulders and they will ripen within a few days. It means you are not battling pesky critters to get the perfect fruit.

My focus this April has been planting out the garlic patch. I have planted 4 varieties so far; Early Australian Purple, Monaro Purple, Italian Red and Flinders Island Red. In May I will plant another variety called Dunganski.

5 days after planting and the first shoots started to appear in the Early Australian Purple beds. As the month has progressed all the beds have started to shoot – highlighting just how tough and forgiving this wonderful plant is out here.

I have been having fun sheep training my small flock of 50 to come to me: rather than me having to chase them all over the paddock in long grass on foot, or train a dog or ride a motorbike. Its nothing new by any means but I am getting some funny looks from fellow sheep graziers when I mention it to them. I’m using a ‘Ship’s Bell’ and luring them with bales of lucerne. It’s a giggle when the boys come piling towards you, totally driven by anticipation, and how fast they slam on the brakes realising “crap it comes with that lady!”

With our focus on the garlic patch and the sheep, the house build has slowed right down. Despite this, the marvels of engineering are harnessed and on display with the deployment of the mini solar system to run the bore pump – automatically. That is to say, we have water pumping automatically into our storage tanks. Did I say automatically? If it were not for the high quality of our water, you would think we were living with city conveniences!

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Water on tap – automatically.

April Book List

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One last thing…

Gardening is cheaper than therapy and you get tomatoes

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March

March is a month of change this year – which is a good thing.

In the last week I reached my goal of 30 bottles of tomato sauce.  The crop has peaked in flavour and size so I use the smaller tomatoes to make chutney.  This chutney is tangy with loads of herbs and spices.  It supports a cheese board admirably, but for me, I think it is unsurpassed as the flavour hit in a toasted tomato chutney and cheese sandwich.  Grand reward for hard work on a cold day.

Remember the garlic patch pic from last month?  It’s amazing the effect of a bit of rain, albeit a very small amount.

You definitely start to evolve an opinion on how much and what sort of rain you require.  I’m definitely a fan of the 2 days of steady drizzle, the sort that resembles the curtain of rain that seems to permanently delineate Durham County in the UK.  Rain days like that are gentle and regenerating.  Out here we tend to get the 5 minute dump and drench type rain.  With a metal roof it is deafening and we find ourselves riveted into silence. And then we find an excuse to race out and ‘rescue’ something just to be part of the chaos. One day we will have an outdoor undercover area to watch from, raise a glass of vino and be very adult about it all.

The garlic patch is underway.  We have created the first planting beds and added some Ag Lime as all the growing guides state ‘garlic loves lime’.  Broad anecdotal statements aside, our soil analysis results show we need to adjust our soil ph.  Tomato, Potato – same outcome (GhostBusters II movie). The 10m x 1m beds will take 1,500 cloves of 5 different varieties of garlic.  Planting is scheduled for 5 & 6 April – the first best planting period for root crops after the full moon.

March Book List

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I finally got my butt to the local library and enrolled then came home, jumped online and ordered a pile of books to read over Easter.  I actually think it is better than having a voucher to your favourite bookstore.  In those instances you are really careful about what you spend the windfall on – at the library absolutely no control required.  It was open slather.

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Sheep and dogs – a comedy everyday

 

Greater confidence begins with a ritual of telling oneself solemnly every morning, before heading out for the day, that one is a muttonhead, a cretin, a dumb-bell and an imbecile. One or two more acts of folly should, thereafter, not matter much at all. http://www.theschooloflife.com

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February

 

Its now mid to late summer and February is the month for tomatoes.

By end of month we are harvesting 3-4kg of fruit every other day and my focus shifts to washing, roasting, pureeing and bottling whilst the fruit is at its finest.  There are so many ways to bottle tomatoes, its another entry for another time.  Perhaps you are blessed to have been raised in the craft.

Fundamentally and most paramount it all comes down to the tomatoes.

We eat so many of them with the type of ‘one pot wonder’ cooking I do. The plants are hardy and generous.  I think no shop bought tomato can compare on flavour to those homegrown. I also suspect our keenness in growing them is an impatient response to waiting for our trees to grow something that resembles fruit.

Short term gratification indeed.

I find the whole process an absorbing mix of learning and honing horticultural, cooking and preserving skills, daring experimentation and diligently (aspirationally!) recording outcomes. I like assessing and working on a plant, to maximise its potential, and the reward, as you harvest and bottle potentially wonderful meals for the year.

Effort and reward – I do wonder who is controlling whom here.

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The first Longview Garlic patch

Watch this space – it’s the new bed for the Longview Garlic crop this year.  This 1,000sqm space has to be mowed (with my trusty skateboard and blade aka the ride on mower), sprayed, fertilised, limed and ripped (yes I will be on the tractor) to make space for the bulbs to be planted in April/May weather permitting.  Whilst I don’t aim for organic/biodynamic certification I am very conscious of limiting my use of sprays and additives to those identified as suitable by these farming practices.  I now have to work this out so feel free to tell me what you know – what fun!

February Book List

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Read Ruby Wax!

“We too often fail to state our needs as clearly as we should, say yes to everyone else’s demands, and then from this grow increasingly ragged, angry and bitter. A lack of selfishness can turn us slowly into highly disagreeable, as well as ineffective, people.” http://www.theschooloflife.com

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