Happy New Year to you all!

Well it’s happened. Christmas is over and we have plunged into the new year. Here are some pics of what is happening around Chez Fork.

Apricot Jam.

The apricots were netted just in time to save most of the crop from the cockatoos.

Not everything grows as expected.

Product versus pack shot.

Often the best results come without any effort. This is a self sown bean. The best in the garden!

Self sown bean taking over the tomato bed.

Last but not least.

The first egg of the new year!

Summer Summary

Well here we are into Autumn at last and a week of days over 30° C has been forecast. This is the pattern of recent  years. Our summer results have been influenced this year by the time we spent away from the garden as much as anything else.

To start where my last post finished off, the final number of roosters we gained from our intake of 5 chicks was 3.

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We have eaten two of the roosters so far and are saving the last one, in the freezer, for a forthcoming dinner. The birds tasted very good, as we expected, but as they all had a large dose of game-bird genes they dressed out with the longest drumsticks I’ve ever seen.

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Speaking of salads we have had a bumper crop of roma tomatoes this year. For once we broke the Canberra tomato rule (only plant after Melbourne Cup day) and this worked in our favour. We didn’t quite get toms for Christmas but we did have them a week later. Sadly my open air tomato drying was a complete failure. The day I took the photo heralded a wet and cool period that was lasted more than a week (quite a common experience this past season). Even with trying to dry the tomatoes by fan inside, they soon collapsed into a very furry mess.

Just after Christmas I planted out my second batch of tomato seedlings. The variety is Soldacki (bought several years ago from Cornucopia Seeds, although the seeds are not included in their current offerings). This is a Polish variety, meant to do well in cooler climates. The plants are powering away and we have plenty of fruit coming along, but nothing to taste as yet.

As always growing out punnets of lettuce seedlings has kept a steady flow of greens for salads, along with our regular herbs such as basil and nasturtium leaves.

What has been  bumper this year is our fruit crops. The apricot fruit set on our tree was good, although like many trees I heard of, the fruit was small and really long in ripening.

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Apricot dessert

We generally harvest apricots around Christmas and nectarines at the end of January. This year we didn’t pick the apricots until mid-January and the nectarines came along in February. The apricots were remained small in size but made up for it in flavour.

The nectarines came in a rush. It was a bumper crop this summer, but the fruit only started to ripen days before we were due to visit family interstate. It was all hands to the dehydrator to deal with the bulk of the crop. I did stew about 2kgs of fruit down, but that barely made a dent in the proceedings. I do have two large bags of dried fruit.

Our legumes were a let down, with the exception of our ever reliable broad beans.

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Broad bean harvest

I managed to get a tiny crop of purple-podded peas, enough for one and a half meals! Every bush or climbing bean that managed to get out of the ground was immediately ring-barked by slaters or chewed right off by snails.

The one area that has improved markedly over summer is our rennovated front garden.

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Early December and the white paper daisies dominate the new garden

It’s been a lot of work doing weeding and mulching, limited as I was by my dodgy knee. Tackling the project a few metres at a time worked. Today things are looking much better, the weeds are few and far between. I cut back the paper daisies afew weeks ago to give the other plantings a chance.
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One of the stars of the new plantings has been Brachyscome ‘Pacific Sun’, a yellow version of the familiar blue flowers.
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Over time we will continue to nurture out grassland plants with a view to providing food sources and homes for insects and small reptiles.

Build it and they will come

Last Sunday I spent the morning in the garden. The weather was reasonable and all those little jobs were waiting to be done.

First on the list was doing some hand-pollinating on the apricot tree. I know, not a lot of fun and just a wee bit anal, but the low temperatures mean that bee pollination is not guaranteed.

By brush, pollinating the apricot tree
By brush, pollinating the apricot tree

Luckily for me I was about a third of the way around the open flowers when I realised I had some help.

An expert shows the way!
An expert shows the way!

Good enough! No need to get in the way of the experts.

Earlier in the week we had found some vegetable seeds in one of the Asian supermarkets near the university, so job number two was planting these out.

Chinese celery and white radish
Chinese celery and white radish

I had chosen seeds that would be able to bear the cold temperatures, Chinese celery, also called mitsuba and a short white radish, that grows to about 20cms.

I also planted out my old garden boots. Yes, they had done their job and while the uppers look quite OK the soles were completely broken and holey. These now are planted with chives, that came free from a magazine cover.

Old boots, new purpose
Old boots, new purpose

And while all this busyness was happening I noticed something out of the corner of my eye. At last, our nesting spotted pardalotes have arrived. Once more our large compost heap has been pressed into service for these tiny nesting birds.

One of the pardalotes sitting outside their nesting hole.
One of the pardalotes sitting outside their nesting hole

This is one gardening service we are happy to provide.

Tomatoes at last!

Hooray, the big day finally arrived this week with the ritual picking of the first tomatoes.

Tomatoesjan

OK so there were only two of them so we had to bulk them out with some other stuff to make a lunch out of them.

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Appearing here with the tomatoes are some of TB’s hot-smoked salmon (I’ll be doing a seperate post on this, soon), lettuce and chicory leaves from our garden.

Chicoryflower

Just in case you’ve not seen them before, these are chicory flowers. The colour is so beautiful I’m happy to let some of the plants run to seed. (According to Notes on Survival, the flowers can be eaten but they are bitter – I think I’m happy to just enjoy them as they are).

Speaking of ‘firsts’ we’ve also been picking the first of the apricots from our tree. Yummy freshfruit, cut up and served on our meusli, eating our breakfast out in the garden.

Apricotbreakfast

Soft Fruit

If you were in any doubt before I think we can all agree now that we can have too much of a ‘good thing’ – in this case rain – as much of Queensland, Victoria and a fair bit of the Eastern coast can testify!

It certainly hasn’t helped our fruit crops either. First we managed to harvest 1 apricot. To quote my old gardening book “Apricots do well when spring and summer are dry …”. The apricot was having one of its quiet years so there wasn’t a mass of fruit to worry about. We actually got the net on the tree before the birds ate everything and then it started to rain. Too much rain as it turned out. The fruit began to split and literally rotted on the tree. In the event we picked and shared the one ripe piece of fruit between us.

Last week I harvested my nectarines. Given the proclivity of the local sulphur crested cockatoos to demolish the fruit just before it ripens, it too had been netted at the first sign of avian interest. Given the disappointment over the apricots I was happy to take a photo of my small but useful harvest of nectarines.

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Again not a big harvest but enough to add to the homemade breakfast cereal. Three drying trays worth.

Nec3

The weather was perfect for drying over 36 degrees C and those westerly winds blowing as they do to mark the real onset of summer. Off they went to the polyhouse and all was well until we got 100 mm of rain from Wednesday evening to the weekend. But when I went to check on the progress of my fruit today …

Mouldnec

There was no one else to blame but moi! Given that I was languishing inside in front of the fan complaining about the humidity I’m not sure why it never dawned on me to see whether the nectarines felt the same way.

It’s a bit hard to go back to the drawing board with the fruit. This morning I went down and stripped the last dozen or so fruit from the tree and they are currently drying inside my oven. Who knows I might get enough for one batch of cereal.

Necoven

PS there was also another casualty associated with the nectarine harvest. I managed to stand on my blueberry bush (which is quite small). It didn’t survive the impact. So now we are down another plant.