Lorne Street Garden

Self sufficiency and sustainability in Fawkner, Melbourne, Australia, and beyond!

A very “tomatoey” update

It’s been a very long time since I’ve posted.   There is no excuse other than slackness on my part.   I think in general I’ve concluded that there is not a lot to post over the Summer months until the end.   Of course,  Summer is supposed to be over now in Melbourne,  but it certainly does not feel that way right now with our warm and humid weather.

I would say warm and humid has been a good summary for this summer in general.   It’s not been very pleasant here in Melbourne, just my opinion,  but the garden seemed to love it.

After what seemed to be a very disappointing start to Summer we’ve actually ended up doing very well in terms of crops.   We were expected to not perform very well at all with Tomatoes,  but we’ve ended up with a fantastic yield.  I really should have weighed each harvest.  We’ve jarred an amazing amount and frozen lots too.  There is still another large crop to harvest!  This will be revealed in the pictures.  This is all while eating an almost continual supply.  My Lycopene levels will be very high.

The Zucchinis have been as always brilliant,  and for once,  we have beans in the freezer stored.   Also we did exceptionally well with Cucumbers for one.  We’ve not had to buy a single one all summer.

Perhaps most excitingly though has been the capsicums.   All the plants have performed fantastically.  Again,  no need for shopping,  it’s amazing what you can grow at home.

We also found an awesome purchase at the local Bunnings.  Collapsible greenhouses,  2$ reduced from 20$….  We have 10.  These are going to be fantastic for keeping the capsicums alive and boosting the seedlings.    They also fit perfectly over the smaller wooden raised beds.

And….

We started to harvest honey using the honey flow.  I’m not sure if we had as much success as we would have hoped, probably due to my nervousness. We harvested several flow frames,  but did not get as much honey as we would have hoped.   I then investigated internally and discovered that only the front cells opened.   After reading up on this via the honey flow forum,  it seems this is a common issue and I need to have another go.   Still,  I think the product still has merit.  It has not stopped me inspecting the brood etc and all seems well.

I thought I would include a few pictures of the main veg bed and how things have transitioned over the past few months.  Certainly it’s evident that I should have done a lot more weeding,  but that’s OK, once the tomatoes are finally gone I can dig it all in.

I hope this slideshow works…

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Some random pictures

 

 

 

And when I get organised I will upload a video of the honey flow in action

 

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Australia Day = Bee Day

Happy Australia Day all,

We’ve decided to officially make Australia Day the day we tackle the job of harvesting honey from the back garden bees.  Despite initial rain and cold weather,  things brightened up nicely and my anxiety dropped.   We managed to harvest all frames from the hive with minimal casualties and stings (none).   I’m steadily becoming happier with the bees.   Initially a month or so ago I was near to having them moved on,  but they can stay now.

We do not have a honey extractor,  so we are going with the crush and strain method,  it’s slow work and a bit painful waiting the slow drop of honey through the double sieve,  but with some patience we will get there.

The honey is pretty good I have say,  no clear flavour,  which I suppose is to be expected with the randomness of backyard urban honey, but very sweet all the same.

A video and pictures.

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Rubbish blog poster returns

it’s been ages since I posted anything.  I’m totally useless I know.

So to the tiny amount of readers I might have,  a token post which will be followed up with something more details on Australia day,  probably including pictures of the honey harvest,  hopefully without tales of me being stung (a lot)…

Anyhow…  we harvested this mega tromboncino zucchini today,  and there are loads more growing.

We called him “Snakey”

2 pictures,  1 relative to me,  and the other vs an Australian terrier and iphone.

tromboncino zucchini tromboncino zucchini

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Happy Birthday me and hello to Benji

Happy Birthday to me!   Sadly I need a root canal and have a cold….

It’s been a while since I last posted,  a very long while.   In the last post it was mentioned that Barney passed away.   This was a tremendously sad day for us,  and I’ve not felt like posting much.

We do now have a new doggy family member!  Introducing Benji!  He has cheered us up no end!

Benji is supposedly an Australian Terrier Mix (not really sure what).  He’s 3 years old but acts with the mischievous will of a puppy – perhaps he’s younger.  He was rescued after being abused by previous owners and left outside in a courtyard.   He had 4 owners in a week and was near to being put down despite being perfectly healthy.  He’s a wonderful little fella,  he just needed love and a bit of training.  He came from Paws2Luv – Pat Sullivan does wonderful work!

Benji!

In garden terms,  quite a lot has been happening albeit slowly.   Our flimsy greenhouse was destroyed…  AGAIN.  I’ve given up on ebay greenhouses/polytunnels now.  All the toughtape in the world won’t fix rusted frames.   Luckily all the seedlings were recovered and are happy outside now or in the front garden wooden greenhouse.  It’s likely we will have some seedlings for sale this year if we can get organised.   I need the money towards a proper poly carbonate greenhouse that I will bolt to concrete next year!

Aside from there,  we are getting bees!   We’ve been talking to Robert from BeeSustainable on Lygon street.  We’ve attended his course,  we’ve built our hive (nearly),  I’m collecting our suit soon, and the nucleus hive is on order.   I won’t pretend,  I’m a bit worried about all this.

Here I am scaring Benji !

Keep back strange creature!

Our pea/snow pea planting for winter was successful,  aside from not buying any, I’ve managed to preserve 6 bags of peas.  Also we have far too many carrots.  I’m a bit sick of carrots to be honest.

The main veg bed is dug out and the 3 sisters,  corn, bean, squash have been put in multiple places.   This worked really well last year, so we are trying in the nature strip crates which I hope will make quite a statement once it’s a bit bigger.

We’ve globe artichokes a plenty,  I’ve managed to convert Rachel to enjoying them.   I do keep finding spiders and bugs in them, but that shows they’re organic – right?

UPDATE on artichokes,   we just had 2 lovely Italian ladies come to our door and offer to buy some from us,  in exchange they are bringing some homemade tomato sauce!

Enough for now, I’ve got a few days off so I can get some seedlings planted in the ground!

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The first of spring – Happy Father’s Day!

It’s been far too long since we last posted,  but it’s the end of winter and the start of spring!   So here is a longer than normal post.

Greenhouse update

The $90 ebay green house/poly tent is still standing despite Melbourne and her weatherly attempts otherwise.

We’ve concluded that if the green house manages to survive through to next winter we will be happy gardeners.    It’s true,  you really do get what you pay for and in this case,  $90 gets you poorly stitched seams and ill fitting plastic.

Within 2 days, the Melbourne wind had caused the seams to start splitting.  Bunnings as always had the answer in the form of Scotchguard “Tough” tape at $20 – again you get what you pay for.   The green house has been reinforced and the covering attached to the frame.   As the pictures will show,  it’s very much a Heath Robinson affair,  but the growing results have been impressive.

A new addition – apple crates!

We have managed to acquire 2 fantastic 1.2m x 1.2m x 60cm ex-apple creates!  Many thanks to Nicole from Luscombe Street community garden for arranging this!   The plan once the council approves is to place them on the nature strip and grow potatoes!

Planting

As the pictures show,  the green house is fulfilling it’s purpose,  we’ve planted the following,  all from seed and now seedlings.

Tomatoes,  San Marzano, Granny’s throwing, valentine, Xmas grape and mystery heirloom.  About 100 in total – perhaps a little too many…

Cucumber,  star and stripe, Armenian, and mini muncher.

Many types of bean

Painted mountain corn

Zucchini – two types

Lettuces

Chilli fatale

And finally capsicums

Everything is racing to grow,   I’m going to be very busy in the next few weeks especially as Rachel will be out of action due to upcoming surgery.

Also the Jerusalem Artichokes have been given their own dedicated home.

Solar power

A few days ago,  we received our end of winter bill – we have been using the reverse cycle for heating and not holding back on the tumble dryer – I was dumb struck to see when opening the envelope that we are $800 in credit….   Solar makes sense.

Any finally…

Barney has a snazzy spring cut.

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Bendigo, Greenhouse, and a new spinning wheel!

It’s been a busy weekend for us, starting Friday we headed up to Bendigo for the Wool and Lamb show.   Rachel is an avid wool spinner and knitter/weaver,  so this was her heaven!    We returned from Bendigo on Sunday with a car full of sheep related goodness and a new spinning wheel.

Rachel has had her eye on the Ashford Joy 2 portable spinning wheel for ages and managed to secure a great deal direct from the company.  It’s a pretty impressive piece of craftsmanship and it’s sure to provide her with a lifetime of spinning.   Hopefully she will also start to populate the craft page on the right side of this blog.

Bendigo was a fantastic place to visit,  we certainly will be returning!

When we got back we decided to put together the greenhouse/poly-tent,   it’s fully erected and currently stable.  It’s bigger than we expected it would be,  so we are going to have to plan out how the interior will look.   The first residents have moved in,  2 Bhut Jolikia chili plants which have been struggling through winter.

 

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Allotment destruction – UK

I stumbled upon this on the guardian UK.   

http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2013/may/31/turf-war-escalates-britains-allotments

How depressing that there are attempts being made to remove people’s access to allotment space.  If anything,  should there not be an increase in allotments?  Considering the UK Government’s austerity push,  it would make sense to encourage local urban farming.

In local news,   our first electricity bill post solar install came in,   $824 credit (and that is just up until the February reading)!! 

Also,  broccoli aplenty,   parsnips, and Jerusalem artichokes too!.

Image

 

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Friends of Merri Creek – mother’s day planting in Fawkner

Happy mother’s day all mothers.

Lorne Street Garden celebrated today by assisting the Friends of Merri Creek to plant Dianella amoena along the escarpment nearby here in Fawkner.  The intention is to help create a Dianella pollination corridor.

It was an excellent couple of hours and a lot was accomplished.  We met some wonderfully like minded people and will be signing up for more activity.

In gardening news,  we are longing for more rain,  but the garlic and broccoli are starting to look fantastic!    In the absence of rain the water tanks are running low,  so I am resorting to the hose pipe…

Image

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Grapes and grapes!

The previous weekend saw the picking out our first decent crop of tomatoes.  In this case the in-appropriately named Christmas grape,  cause it’s February. They were nonetheless lovely,  devoured in earnest after being drenched with sherry vinegar and served with a blacked chorizo. On a more grape related note,  our mystery red grapes are just about ready to harvest.   A family of blackbirds is nesting in the vine,  it’s going to be race to see who wins out! Last year wine making was a mixed success, the plum wine was ace (another post coming on that),  but the red wine was pretty putrid.    Better luck this year! Some pictures. Xmas grapes (apparently)

Real grape

Real grape

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1.21 Gigawatts!!

Not quite 1.21 Gigawatts a la Doc Emmett Brown, but we certainly were chuffed to tip the 1 megawatt point today!

1.030 megawatts!

We are rather frugal as a household in terms of electricity usage,  we use approximately 6 kWh per day.  According to our bill, the average Australian house with 3 people is apparently using 17 kWh per day.   We are hoping that being a bit sensible with our power use and having solar,  we will not have to pay for electricity in 2013 (or at the most a little tiny bit).

It’s surprisingly easy to only use only 6 kWh,  aside from energy saving light bulbs,  you just need to be smart:

  • Make sure you only perform full loads of washing (cold).  If you can do this during non-peak rates then all the better.
  • You really don’t need lights to be on all the time,  it’s not being tight, but perhaps a personal preference.  Your room do not need to be brilliantly illuminated at all times,  especially during the day.
  •  Be smarter with cooling,   certainly we do have a split system AC,  but it’s not needed on 30c days (outside).   We have shutters,  so just keep them shut.   If you know a hot day is coming,  make sure you cool the house down over night.
  • Fans actually do a pretty admirable job of cooling the house down, think smartly about fan positioning to direct hot air around the home.
  • Turn off standby appliances,  they are still using electricity regardless.
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