Thneeds and Gardens

The last couple of posts seem to have gone all broad and big picture on me so back to the core purpose of this blog which is to document what we are actually doing. Christmas has come and gone and I’ve got to say that this one didn’t bug me as much as normal. I’ll explain before I come across all Ebeneezer. I love the core ideas of Christmas, being with family, getting together with people you haven’t seen, remembering that kindness, generosity and hopefully even a good dose of altruism are some of the best bits of humanity. The thing that gets me is the commercialism and out and out waste of it all.

Normally the constant bombardment that you need to get your (insert present receiver here) the latest car, washing machine, blender, best of Boris Yeltsin singing your favorite Christmas tunes CD just does my head in! But this year I’m pleased to say that we escaped relatively unscathed and due to three factors. The first was simply that we were away for one of the weeks leading up to Christmas. The second came about due to our local shopping focus. Since we are aiming to buy things locally and from people who are actually connected (or at least knowledgeable) to the production of the product, the major supermarket chains and shopping centers are rarely if ever places we visit and hence we never bumped into the buying frenzy.

The last one was our lack of TV. I’ve wanted to get rid of the TV for a long time but we’ve never really had the guts to take the plunge and do it. I’ve got to say that it’s not nearly as big a change as we thought it would be. It’s probably worth pointing out that we still have a computer with a relatively large monitor so we still watch DVD’s and can stream ABC through iview. The big difference though, apart from the inability just to flick through channels with a remote, is the total lack of advertising. This I think is the big difference this year, I don’t know what the latest thing is and I feel much better for the lack of the knowledge. It also makes me aware of just how powerful advertising is and how much of a trap it is for people trying to reduce their consumption (or even just save some money) as your constantly sold a lie that you either need a thneed (sorry Dr. Seuss) or even if you don’t, you should get one as it will make you happy/popular/smart/sexy/Brad Pitt.

I’ll get off Christmas since Nik actually has a lot more to say about all the really cool things that she did to reduce our Christmas impact.


What I will do is catch up quickly on the garden since at the moment (in the absence of work) it is going great guns. After years of dabbling it’s great to have upped the gear a bit and be getting more out of our patch of dirt. Nikki once joked that I’d only ever grow a salad so I’ll add this first picture partly because together with some tuna it formed our lunch today and partly to prove her wrong.

The potatoes have all died back now and I’m gradually digging them up. I haven’t any real idea of how many we’ve grown but I would guess that it’s probably around 60 kilos or so. I’m slowly extracting and drying them and will be storing them in boxes packed with hay for use over the next months but I still suspect potato salad and gnocchi will be featuring fairly heavily on the menu.

The zucchini are hitting their strides and have once again proved that whilst my seed raising process might be pretty good my ability to label what I’m growing isn’t, hence the reason it appears this years Zuccs will be brought to us by the colour yellow. Our rapidly growing Kale has been causing more problems resulting in last weeks menu being a Kale themed one since it’s great looking stuff and I have absolutely no idea how to cook it. Fortunately the internet came to the rescue and resulted in, amongst others, a really good white bean, sausage and Kale stew which the kids even got in to.

DSC09379The last of the beetroot are coming out as is the rocket while the celery, cucumber, pumpkin, tomatoes, basil, eggplant, broccoli, corn and peppers are just getting going. I’m also dealing with a rogue tomato invasion which I’m actually quite enjoying though I was pretty surprised to find that this wheelbarrow of dirt had become their latest target.

Our fruit trees are gradually getting there with the apple tree growing well, our lemon tree coming back after a gall wasp inspired ‘hard’ prune and the orange tree finally seeming to have decided that it’ll stay alive after all. The peach and mandarin are still not sure as are the blueberries and the avacado is beatiful and flowers with majesty, it just doesn’t actually produce any avacados.  We have been getting some really good output from our rasperries though.

Rasperries fruit in the second year which sounds like a pain but

DSC09382actually means that when this years canes have finished providing you with beautiful  sweet rasperries then you just cut them back and expose the first year growth that has been quietly getting on with it’s business. Then the next year you’re ready to go again. They self succour so being short on rasperry canes is something that you’re not likely to be. We started with 5 canes that we planted in the dead space between the washing line uprights as this allowed us both to trellis them and, as you can see in the photo, to protect them from hungry birds.

I’m also starting to experiment with growing some plants for other purposes. I’ve got three Luffas (yeh the things you clean yourself in the shower with) at the back of the garden. I don’t know how they are going to work out but it’s a bit of a trip to even think that these things are actually the skeletal remains of a marrow. I’ve also planted what was amusingly sold as ‘clucker tucker’ with a view to growing a greater percentage of what our chickens eat. At the moment I’m having the most luck with a seed called pigeon pea which apparently has a pea that has a very high nutrient value and can be made into Dhal (if not eaten by the chickens).

The other thing that I’m doing is trying to get better at seed saving. I say get better, it’s probably more accurate to say get more organised since the techniques are generally not complicated but it requires a bit more organisation than I’ve had in the past. The idea is to free ourselves from having to buy in seed. The core concept is find the strongest version of the plant, let it go to seed, collect and dry the seed and then use that the following year. I’m starting off with rocket which is one of the easier ones. I’ve collected a bunch of seed that are now happily drying in my pantry and will report back how it all goes.

That’s enough for now, I hope you all had a great Christmas.