Got home late after work to find that Himself had bought four heifers at the cattle sale today. Each year, we raise a few young beef animals from a weaned stage until they’re about a year old and then we sell them. Usually because animals are a bit nervous when they first arrive, they sprint round their new paddock once or twice, find the water trough, have a drink and then put their heads down and eat the grass. So tonight, things went well as the animals off-loaded from the truck into the stockyard. They stood still while Himself gave them a check-over before opening the gate to the paddock. That’s when the fun began. They were bovine fence hurdlers on steroids! We had to move quickly – running across paddocks in gumboots through long grass – to head the animals off. We’re not twenty any more – but I was impressed by our own turns of speed.
The heifers crashed an electric fence and charged through our boundary stream into the neighbour’s property. Thank goodness her vegetable garden was spared. Neighbourhood help materialised – that’s what’s good about living in this area. Herding the heifers home was an invitation for more bovine athletic antics. One heifer fence-crashed into a second neighbour’s farm. The three others were last seen sprinting up the local road into the sunset. It could be that Himself’s language offended them. Eventually we were able to herd the three road racers back onto our place. More fence-crashing and galloping – through my vegetable garden this time. At least the sweet corn is still standing. One dived into the stream again and swam across back to the neighbour. Two are in time-out, well secured in the paddock behind our house away from the road and the stream.
Three hours later as I write this, I finally have my cup of coffee and Himself is talking to our neighbour. We’ll herd the other two animals back tomorrow. They now have names: T-Bone, Sirloin, Fillet and Rump Steak – and all are on borrowed time. And our dinner tonight (cooked by son) was – beef hamburgers with fresh salad vegetables from the garden.
The coriander has gone to seed serving as a reminder to store the seeds before the plants shed their seeds. Earlier I let a couple of green and butter bean plants dry out and picked and am saving the pods for sowing next season. I’ll simply leave some silverbeet and lettuce plants that have bolted in the recent humid conditions and let them self-perpetuate, as has happened previously, for the autumn to winter season. Next month when the potatoes (six heritage varieties), courgettes and pumpkins are ready I’ll store some as seeds. The Urenika or peruperu (blue Maori potato) has been a winner as it looks great on the table and is disease resistant. I think I get more enjoyment being able to share the seed potatoes when people ask. It’s knowing people care about the quality and diversity of food they eat.
And thinking about planting for the cooler months ahead, I bought seeds of heritage varieties organically grown in our region. It’s always exciting to find different seeds and that will add variety to the menu – and stock of seed. This weekend, Ill be sowing my precious new seeds. The cauliflower is Violet Sicilian. It is described as having rosy-violet florets. Joe’s Lettuce is described as having large cartreuse grey leaves and sitting well over winter. The Salad Pea is described on the seed packet as low growing, edible shellout and having unusually shaped tendrils that taste like pea sprouts if picked when young. Manglebeet (I’ve never heard of this vegetable before) is described as extraordinary, like an enormous orange beetroot with a very sweet, pleasant and mild flavour when cubed and steamed. Apparently the tops are also edible. Nutty Celery is described as an outstanding, very disease resistant variety that can be picked by the stalk. As I’ve not grown these vegatables before, I’ll be watching each plant with close interest at every stage of their growth. Of course, the test will be in the taste.
Years ago, an elderly neighbour showed me how he transplanted seedlings into the garden in paper pots that he’d made. There was, he claimed, less shock to the root system. The young plant is established in the paper pot with seedling mix before being transplanted into the garden. I leave a cuff to act as a mini-barrier from the wind.
Fold one sheet of newspaper to make an organic seedling planter.
Interleave one edge into opposite fold to form a cylindrical shape
Press inner fold down to form base
Outer view of finished base
Fold top 1/3 inside pot
Finished seedling paper pot ready to fill.
Zucchini seedling sown about 10 days ago in moistened paper pot. Leave space to act as a cuff to protect the young plant.
The same neighbour also spread seeds onto dampened paper strips. He covered the seeds with another strip of dampened paper. He then laid the seeded paper on damp seedling mix.
Gardening convert (and now gardening guru) Number 2 adult son has been greatly inspired by the rapid sprouting of his sowings of autumn-winter vegetable seeds in the polyhouse. After we cleared the polyhouse, he energetically devoted himself to creating a long bed of sawdust (from the pile we keep to spread in the calf pens) on which to place the seedling trays in the polyhouse. He placed drippers to moisten the sawdust. He’s doing it his way. But he listened when I showed him how to roll a sheet of newspaper to make an organic seedling planter to be filled with seedling mix in readiness for the seedling which is then left to establish before being planted in the garden. I’ve done this for years and found it minimises the shock of transplantation. I leave a cuff to act as a mini-barrier for a bit of protection from the wind for the new seedlings.
Today he’s been out in the paddock with a spade digging near the bonfire patch where I’d discovered self-sown vegies earlier this year. I had intended to establish another outside garden patch nearby because I was inspired by the depth, richness and friability of the soil enlivened by worms, humus, wood. He’s decided this area will suit his autumn-winter plantings just fine and has visions of eventually selling surplus at the local Growers’ Market. We’ll see. Just don’t give up the daytime job yet, I say.
We had a deluge – more than 100 mm of rain fell overnight and this morning. Major flooding happened elswhere in the region. Yesterday, my concern was the effects of strong easterly wind gusts as they knocked the sweetcorn about. I staked the plants. An easterly here can blow hard and last a few days. At times like this you realise how important it is to have the garden basics right such as protective windbreaks and good drainage. My fall-back gardening plan was to work in the polyhouse and get it cleaned up in preparation for autumn.
The polyhouse (plastic covered) flapped noisily. I counted my worry beads as Himself and I nervously listened waiting for something to give. But we should have more faith – we recovered the roof with storm-proof plastic about four years ago. The upper roll-up vent and side walls still have to be replaced. During in the late 1980s and early 1990s (before our time here), several locals constructed saw-toothed polyhouses (similar to ours) on their lifestyle blocks because of an economic boom in horticultural enterprises. The vendors of our place used to grow Sandersonias commercially for export, but that venture did not last. Others still grow orchids for export – but they have all sorts of systems and technology. One neighbour used her redundancy payout to build up her hobby of growing roses hydroponically and she now supplies the local florists and supermarkets. It’s all go for her on Valentine’s Day with her long-stemmed red roses.
Our approach towards using the polyhouse is rather casual and I’ve just realised I’ll have to update my polyhouse photos.
We spent a lot of time clearing the weeds and debris that had accumulated during its years of disuse. Himself recycled the boxing timbers to construct calf-rearing pens lined with sawdust. It’s cosy for the young animals over the winter period. We also store hay. I put weedmat down over the scoria floor base so that I could set up a section to grow plants in the cooler months. Himself dismantled the overhead watering system and recycled the the piping to create a timer controlled dripper watering system so I could grow vegetables in pots. Yesterday, younger adult son and I cleared the last of the early spring-sown beans, courgettes and tomatoes grown in pots in the polyhouse. We’ve sowed seeds in prepapration for growing autumn-winter vegetables both in the polyhouse and in the outside garden beds. I just don’t work or grow things in the polyhouse during summer as the temperatures often climb above 40 degrees C. I have found that aubergines like the heat and do plan to grow more of them next year.
Don’t know what I did but I managed delete a post and the comments re the benefits of Roses and ecological diversity in the garden. I tried Ctrl + Z but no luck.
It was cooler after a spate of hot humid days. I was wandering round the garden – glass of wine in hand – enjoying the scents and colours of some of my summer blooms.
Buff Beauty Graham Thomas Westfalen Park