Monday, March 30, 2009

Gorgeous Gumboots, Gardens and Gum trees

'If you walk in My statutes and keep My commandments, and perform them, then I will give you rain in its season, the land shall yield its produce , and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit.'
Leviticus 26 v 3-4

When we first found our eight acres of eden, we wondered whether we would be able to garden under the gums. We really wanted to grow our own vegetables but we realized that being surrounded by these glorious trees came at a price - less hours of direct sunlight, roots and shade to contend with and nutrients taken from the soil.

It has taken lots of hard work, research and reading, trial and error and holding onto the promise from God that our land would yield its produce, but this summer we began to see the harvest, an abundant crop of organic vegetables.

Would you like to go on a tour of our gardens? Find the gumboots! Let's go! These gorgeous girly gumboots are mine, I love them! When they wear out I'll be buying the pink paisley pair, it was so hard to decide!

The most recent addition to our food gardens is located a short walk from the house, next to the big green shed. On this big slab of concrete where my husband's 'hideaway' now stands, there used to be a derelict concrete block dwelling. It was an eyesore which I saw every time I looked out of the kitchen window and I was so pleased to see it go.

Today I survey the growth of the zucchini and spread of the cucumbers as I wash dishes at the sink and it is a joy to behold. We put in this garden last spring using the wooden pallets that were lying around the property following completion of our home extension. The pallets were cut in half and stood on their sides and nailed and wired together. Each bed is 4.7 metres long by 1.2 metres wide and 0.6m deep and we have 3 beds with a space of 1 metre between each bed. A green fence stain was used on the exterior of the pallets to match the shed and blend in with the greenery of the forest. At the far end, we erected posts and ran wires to create a trellis for beans and cucumbers.

We lined the beds with cardboard and newspaper and filled them with rotten straw from old bales acquired from a local dairy farm. The farmer was happy for us to take the bales away; a bit of a smelly job but well worth the trip down the road in the ute.

Our rotten bales have been gourmet food for our veggies; we enriched the mix with our own compost, blood and bone and a couple of bags of 'Rooster Booster'. These seedlings were only planted two weeks ago and are growing vigorously. We need to mulch these beds now and will use sugar cane mulch.

Our raised beds have been our most productive gardens and throughout the summer we harvested our first real abundant crop of vegetables. Most of our vegetables were grown from seed purchased from the 'Diggers Club' in Victoria. We also purchased seedlings from the farmers markets. Throughout summer we enjoyed:-

- Zucchini, green and yellow varieties
- Carrots, heirloom, orange, yellow, white (yes, white !) but loved the purple ones!
- Squash
- Beans, as well as the usual green beans, golden bush beans and barlotti climbing bean.
- Beetroot- heirloom red, yellow and white made excellent pickle. Also ate the leaves!
- Peppers (still harvesting these)
- Spinach, lettuce and Asian salad greens.
- Amaranth

In a separate bed but nearby, we grew tomatoes and this was the crop most affected by pests, namely, the heliothus grub; next year we will try using muslin bags tied over the fruit. Nevertheless, we planted enough tomatoes to ensure a steady supply and now I refuse to buy store grown tomatoes, even the 'vine-ripened' ones from the markets which I know are hydroponic; nothing worse than a watery tomato which was grown in water with nutrients artificially added. We are all for food grown in good soil (unless God designed the plant to grow in water, which of course some plants do) - with no chemical fertilizers or pesticides used.

Autumn has arrived and another season for planting. We live in a region which has summer rain and this year we were blessed with lots of rain (at times too much!) We didn't have to do much watering but we did have lots of weeding. Another stinky bale has gone in and we have planted out two beds so far. I'm trying kale this year on the recommendation of a friend who says it is the best leafy green she has ever planted and great for juicing. We've also strung bird netting over the bed for salad leaves as an animal enjoyed an evening supper of the first planting. High on the suspect list is the possum and the bandicoot. The netting seems to have worked. In our third bed we will plant garlic. We tried this in another area previously, but didn't have much of a crop. We experienced our first success with carrots in the raised beds and hope they work for the garlic too.

Our other vegetable garden is further away from the house, a little bit of a trek but located close to the chicken enclosure. Along the fence we grow passionfruit which also climbs over the roof of the chicken house and its entrance creating a green arbour for the chickens as they go to and fro. Ceylon spinach also sprawls along this fence and hangs over for the chickens to enjoy a nibble. It grows prolifically, there is more than enough to share with the 'chooks'.
We are going to use these beds for our vegetable crops that need more room - pumpkins, melons and other rambling vegetables. We also have comfrey growing here, nasturtiums, sweet basil, turmeric and lemon grass. It is in need of a good weeding right now after all the recent rain but I will wait until it cools down and the snakes go into hibernation; I know there is a red belly black snake in there at the moment, he's been spotted in the same bed on two separate days.

When we first bought this property six years ago, this clearing was covered in lantana, it was well over six feet high. After two years of grubbing out and arms covered in scratches, we purchased a second-hand tractor and two weeks later it was gone and the area that was to become our chicken enclosure and orchard was ready for fencing.

The chickens have their cool retreat created from an old tin shed. It even has a 'whirlybird' installed for added ventilation but this we suspect is the route for pythons who find their way in, even though we thought we had created a snake proof enclosure. Thankfully, I have a 16 year old son who is more than happy to capture and relocate these useful non- venomous vermin control officers! So far, we have only lost one chicken (a bantam) to a carpet snake.

In the chicken's forest run, we have planted our orchard. It has its own mini-fence whilst the trees establish. As it is on a sloping section the chickens' natural fertilizer runs downhill. We have planted:-

- apples, a granny smiths and a pink lady. We sampled our first apple of a decent size today, it was sweet, tangy and crisp. Cannot wait for it to go into full production!
- pears - tropical varieties
- a peacharine
- davidson plums - a native bushfood for making jam
- mangoes
- paw paws
- tamarillos - We have two trees of golden 'tree tomatoes' that we actually harvested today, about 75 in total with some still left on the trees. I have just made three jars of tamarillo & pear chutney, my own experiment and it tastes good. I will post the recipe soon - check back!

We have also planted a citrus grove at the front of the property, and some more unusual tropical fruits such as a soursop and a dragonfruit ( having tasted one, had to have one!) To remind us of NZ there are also two feijoas. (Pineapple guava) We used to have a feijoa tree in the garden of our first home and it was laden with fruit which took hours of cutting, scooping and bagging for the freezer, for turning into crumbles and pies. This was done out of love for my husband as I'm not that keen on this fruit.

A hedge of coffee plants completes our food forest. Of course it is not complete. We watch 'Gardening Australia' on the ABC every Saturday evening or read the Organic Gardener magazine and discover a fruit we don't know or haven't thought of planting. We visit friends who have more established food gardens and orchards and they say 'try this' and we know we have to have one too!

Oh, I almost forgot the herb garden, this was the first garden I planted at eight acres of eden and some of the herbs have grown there all year round, especially the oregano, it runs wild but I don't mind, I can send out a child to pick a small bunch whenever we are making pizzas or roasting a chicken. A bay tree is a wonderful addition for the kitchen garden cook. Useful herbs such as wormwood are also found here, it can be chopped up and thrown into the scraps for the chickens - a natural remedy for worms.

Gardening is a family affair at eight acres of eden and everyone is expected to help. We find we achieve most when we all work together in the one area. Children especially need to experience this, they discover the joy of growing their own produce, they realize it requires planning, hard work, creative thinking and problem solving along the way. When they finally get to eat the results and they taste the difference they are convinced! They are the organic gardeners of today and the future. I am so thrilled to see in them a desire to grow and eat healthy food.

And now lies ahead, the challenge to grow food all year round, to learn how to plant in succession, so we always have something to harvest. I know this will happen!

'Your threshing shall last till the time of vintage, and the vintage shall last till the time of sowing; you shall eat your bread to the full and dwell in your land safely.'
Leviticus 26 v 5

I pray that this will happen for you too!


A Bite of Country Cupcakes said...

Wow I am reading and peeking at the photos with renewed desire that I MUST get my vegie patch happening again....
Yours is just amazing and such a blessing to the kitchen and all looks so beautiful!

Your two little blonde poppets look gorgeous too.
You are working really hard to live your dream...Well done guys

Renee said...

Thanks for the post...I everyone in the blog world has to read Rhonda'

I am in the middle of cooking dinner...Brent, my husband, says that every time the kitchen gets clean one of us messes it up again...that is what happens when you cook from scratch....

I am looking forward to reading your post....have a lovely week

Rodney said...

Parents with an environmental bent may wish to check out ....
.... by Fred Fawcett & The Sprinkles - a water conservation song. Royalty FREE download for schools 0:59 mp3


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