06 October 2014

Sometimes the tenacity of nature and its ability to survive against the odds is astounding!

05 October 2014

Slow Living Months - July to September 2014

Wow, it's been four months since I last posted.  I didn't intend to take such a long break, but various life and garden issues got in the way and suddenly it's October...  So Hello to anyone out there who is still following the CGCG blog...!

I figured the easiest way to get myself going again, and do a catch-up post on where the gardens are at would be to reconnect in with the Slow Living Journal.  In the past four months it's been handed over from Christine at Slow Living Essentials to Linda at Greenhaven.  I'd like to thank Christine for initiating the group, and hosting it for two years.  It was one of the first places that I started to make blogging connections when I started writing CGCG and I've "met" some fabulous people through it, including Christine herself, and also Linda, who I'm so happy put her hand up to host it after Christine. Thanks to both of you ladies, you're a great inspiration to me!

As for the past few months, maybe I'll just try to bring everyone up to date through all the Slow Living categories:

When we bought our two white chickens the seller told us they were 11 weeks old and would start laying at 22 weeks.  At 22 weeks and 3 days the first one started laying and the second joined her about a week later.  They've each been laying one egg a day every single day since July, so we have been eating lots of eggs, homemade pasta, frittatas, lemon tarts etc.  What a change from the vague laying habits of the bantams!
I also ended up in an exchange program of sorts with a friend who took a liking to my jam and exchanged some great tomato chutney and sauce for it.  I ended up having to make extra batches to keep up the arrangement so he wouldn't get all my raspberry jam, and tried some blackberry jam using frozen berries from the farm-gate shop that I often visit.

As the white chickens kept growing and growing, we realised that there would be a problem once they started laying, there just wasn't enough room in the existing house for multiple chickens to do their thing.  So I built an Eggstension!  I took one side off the "bedroom" of the chook house and fitted it into that.  It took a while for the chickens to take to it, and although it has two nesting boxes, it's rare for them to sit side by side to lay, they seem to prefer to pile up the eggs in one nest if possible, but it has certainly helped give them enough room when needed.

My aim to reduce our electricity consumption continues, and although we didn't manage to sort out our winter heating issue, we did manage to make a significant reduction on last winter's electricity bill through the other initiatives we have put in place.  The heating remained an issue as I had selected a gas heater and was just about to buy it when I started reading that the best option is to actually buy electric and install solar panels to run it (or at least offset the cost) rather than gas, which is quickly getting more expensive, and obviously far less environmentally responsible that solar.  So now I need to start researching again, and in the meantime the coldest of the weather has hopefully passed, so I have another summer to resolve the issue as well as work on the other solutions that will reduce the lack of heat retention that our house currently suffers.

I also made a huge leap forward with a new job that meant the end of long commutes to work every day in my car.  In fact, not only can I do a short commute on the tram, but I've been walking home a few times a week, and now that daylight savings has kicked in I'm planning to start cycling.  I can't tell you how happy this makes me, I absolutely hated driving to work!

The Country Garden is producing well, and providing around 75% of our vegies at the moment.  

The City garden has been a bit hit and miss lately.  On the positive side, the new chickens are settled in and proving to be delightful and inquisitive companions.  They are working hard to improve the soil in the garden by digging and contributing to the compost, so I'm happy that the soil which was a problem a year ago is in much better condition.  On the downside, big chickens who lay every day are constantly ravenous for food, eat everything in sight and then poo everywhere!  The garden also continues to be attacked by possums, who have severely damaged the nectarine tree so that I think it may not recover, and have even been getting stuck into the leaves of the lemon tree!  I had hoped to be able to restart the vegetable beds this Spring once the soil was improved, but have realised that I'll need to build a very well netted structure to keep fluffy and feathery creatures from attacking everything.

The Country Garden is looking lush and producing really well.  But the truth is that I haven't actually worked in it for the last couple of months due to what can best be described as a philosophical difference of opinion about organic vs non-organic.  I haven't wanted to write about it, and still don't as it was quite upsetting, however we have now resolved the issue with some creative solutions. I returned to the garden last weekend and realised just how much I had missed it and the connection with my aunt there.

The Country Garden is overflowing with Purple Sprouting Broccoli, as well as celery, beetroot, silverbeet, kale, peas, fennel, leek, turnip, sorrel, garlic shoots and lots of herbs.  Two beds were planted out with a winter green-manure crop, which has just been chopped into the soil, and we have now crossed our fingers against any late frost and planted the first potatoes and tomatoes, which may still need to be covered for a few weeks.  We lost a first crop of broad beans to some sort of fungus, but a second crop is growing well, although may have been planted too late to produce, in which case I'll call it a manure crop and dig it into the soil too.  Also planted in the last few months were several gooseberries, which are all sprouting leaves now.  The stone pine tree planted a couple of years ago is now about 120cm tall, with quite an impressive recent growth spurt, but I suspect it will still be ten years or more before there are any pine-nuts to be harvested from it!

After noting in my last Slow Living journal that I'd restarted this scarf seven times then given up and started with another pattern, I decided I didn't like the second one, so had one last try with the first pattern, but counted the stitches out very carefully at the beginning, and it worked.  Ta-dah, my first completed knitting project with holes in it that are supposed to be there!
After the scarf I looked at my stash and realised I had enough sock wool from various previous pairs of socks to make a bright mixed pattern, so these are on the needles now in a race against warm weather and my traditional loss of interest in knitting in summer.

My street herb garden had become very drab and unhealthy by the middle of winter, so I took it all down, and repotted everything, adding lots of home-made compost and a good drink of seaweed solution.  I kept all the pots in the sun wrapped up securely in wire to protect them from the marauding possums (and white chickens!) until they started to regrow in the warmer weather.  I've just re-established the garden out on the footpath, using a different hanging system that lets the pots sit much flatter than they were before, so they don't overflow and dry as quickly when I water them.  It's looking more lush every day, and I've seem several people stopping by to check it out and take a few sprigs.

I'm six weeks into a new day-job, and my head is filled with new discoveries.  It's very refreshing to focus on something that is really fascinating and poses many challenges with a big delivery schedule ahead.  

I've enjoyed some fascinating architecture in the last few months - including a private tour of Perth Arena, and then a visit to Exxopolis when it was in town.  Exxopolis is the wildest creation!  If you ever have a chance to experience, I can highly recommend it, it's like being in another world - an adult jumping castle on steroids  :)

I hope you've had a great few months.  Don't forget to stop by Linda's Greenhaven blog and check out what others have been up to.