Thursday, December 31, 2009

Watermelons: A new year surprise

Well the rains have certainly kick started a few dry patches (not to mention the grass). We have discovered new watermelons amongst old vines we thought exhausted. Our boys love watermelons so volunteer melons are always welcome. They are fully seeded watermelons and taste great compared to the store bought ones. Each successful melon provides a plethora of seeds for more crops as well. Ahhh...isn't nature just wonderful.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Corn: Tall straight soldiers

Our foray into corn has gone well. They have grown tall and straight and true from the moment they emerged from the soil. We eat corn with pretty much every meal so we would need quite a crop to keep up with our consumption levels but the fact that they have grown so well may warrant setting up a dedicated cornfield. We shall see... but in the meantime the dozen or so we will harvest are sure to be tasty and golden yellow.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Sunflowers: A Golden Crop

Jacob decided he wanted some sunflowers in his garden. Sunflowers are a nutritional goldmine (their seeds are both delicious and nutritious) so he was fully supported in his choice. We were unsure of their chances in the cooler shade of the vege patch but they flourished. Here is some info on these golden giants.

Sunflower Seeds and Vitamin E
Sunflower seeds are an excellent source of vitamin E. Vitamin E is an antioxidant that neutralizes free radicals in the body. Vitamin E can play a significant role in conditions where inflammation and free radicals co-exist. The health benefits of getting enough vitamin E are seen in a reduction of symptoms in rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, and osteoarthritis, in reducing severity of hot flashes and in reducing risk of colon cancer. Vitamin E also helps prevent free radicals from oxidizing cholesterol, which means reduction and prevention of atherosclerosis, a condition that can lead to heart attack and stroke.

Sunflower Seeds and Selenium
Selenium is a trace mineral that is crucial to good health. In fact, numerous studies have demonstrated a link between low dietary levels of selenium and development of cancer in humans. Selenium can repair cells, inhibit cancer cells from proliferating, and can even induce a sequence whereby the body destroys abnormal cells. Sunflower seeds are a good source of selenium.

Sunflower Seeds and Magnesium
Magnesium is good for humans on a number of health fronts. Magnesium can calm the nerves and lower high blood pressure and reduces the risk of stroke and heart attack. Magnesium may help to prevent migraine headaches and is necessary for healthy bones and muscles. Magnesium helps to regulate body processes that result in nerve cell overactivation, seen in spasms in airways (in asthma) and in painful muscle cramps. Eating sunflower seeds is an easy way to increase dietary levels of magnesium.


Friday, November 6, 2009

Wildlife: A Jolly Fat Frog

Ok - any ideas on this one as I can't find anything online that might give me a clue...?


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Tomatoes: Big Red & Juicy

Our volunteer Tomotoes have provided a harvest to feed a dozen people.

We think a combination of the nice shady garden together with the Borage Amy planted and her early attention to grubs has resulted in five or six very healthy and fruitful vines.

We have had to add new stakes nearly every second day to help them support all their fruit.


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Avocado Trees: A Pioneer

Well one of the Avocado seeds has sprouted and we have our first Avocado warrior ready to take on the elements. They like a lot of drainage so we have planted it in a pot half buried in the soil. This photo is after four weeks in situ so it is still looking strong and healthy. The rains (that are well overdue thank you weather gods...any time that pleases you will be greatly appreciated!) will give it a great kick start once they arrive I'm sure.

Avocados are a prized delicacy in our household so the more trees we get going the better!


Saturday, October 3, 2009

Pecan Trees: The Promised Green

Here are the photos of our uber green pecan trees as promised! Ok they aren't quite as green as they were two weeks ago as we are in a real dry, dusty stretch (evidenced by the brown expanse of grass!) which has knocked around all the trees but you can still get the explosion of green growth that occurs with these guys once spring rolls around.

Pecan trees are North America natives and have been commercially grown there since the 1850s. They are part of the walnut family and their botanical name is Carya Illinoensis. They are apparently very long-lived and can grow into pretty formidable trees. Some still-productive trees are well over 100 years of age!

As Pecan varieties generally do not self-pollinate we have planted two types. All of them produce male flowers (called catkins) and female flowers (called pistelets) on separate branches We are told that the male flowers don't generally shed pollen at the same time as the female flowers on the same tree are ready to be fertilised. Sounds like an evolutionary hurdle but hey - lucky us humans are here to lend a helping hand!


Thursday, September 24, 2009

Wildlife: Northern Barred Frog

We found this little brown fellow hiding in the grey water pipe during a recent pump replacement. I think it is a northern barred frog and a very junior one at that. If you think I'm wrong please let me know as I am no expert.

The Northern Barred Frog is a large frog, with adults reaching a maximum length of 10 centimetres. It has powerful legs and arms, with a large head and large eyes. It has a brown or copper dorsal surface with irregular, darker blotches along the middle of its back. A dark line runs from the snout, through the eye, and over the tympanum to the top of the shoulder. Like all frogs of the genus Mixophyes, the Northern Barred Frog has bars running across its legs. The toes are fully webbed, the fingers are unwebbed, and the tympanum is visible.
Ecology and beha[[viour

The Northern Barred Frog inhabits dense tropical rainforest (hmmmm), close to fast-flowing streams. It usually hides and hunts in leaf litter. Like Mixophyes iteratus and Mixophyes fasciolatus, this species lays its eggs on the banks of streams. Rain then washes them into the stream where the tadpoles hatch. The tadpoles are very large, reaching a length of 12.5 centimetres. The male will call with a deep "wahk' (that's wahk!) noise.


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Weather: Orange Day in the Lockyer

Well today is an amazing orange day here in the Lockyer with the dust storms blowing through and damaging trees, plants and the tent we had pitched in the backyard for a week's camp out. These photos were taken at 10:30am today. Amazing!


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Wildlife: Baby Magpie

Rescue team on the job! This lad fell from his tree and somehow made his way to our vege garden area. We picked him up before Molly had the chance to chomp Hello though mum and dad maggie weren't happy and dive bombed us as we prepared a small ice-cream box as a surrogate nest for him. We put him back up in a tree as per the wildlife rescue services recommendation and he proceeded to leap out (luckily we placed him above a nice soft hay pile). The little bugger was determined to fly I think so we left him be and helped keep a lookout for snakes and predators as he walked and flopped around the place.

The boys have been divebombed for the last 4 weeks so they were quite pleased to be able to help out the baby magpie that mum and dad maggie have been working so hard to protect.

The magpie is a very common bird around Australia and you can see them in parks and suburban gardens all year round. In August/September they nest and protect their offspring by divebombing in about 100 meter radius. Their heads, belly and tail tip are all black and they have splashes of white on their wings, lower back and tail, and the back of their head. Their legs are also black.

They certainly are not shy birds and some people coax them into becoming local residents as they enjoy their carolling song. They also have a great appetite for insect pests so are very welcome at our place.


Sunday, September 6, 2009

Peas and Beans: Tasty buds

Well our pea and bean bushes / plants are flowering, much to the boys delight. No doubt they will soon produce a tasty harvest for us. Rain on the weekend has helped everything along nicely and it's good to see that nothing seems to need fertiliser as yet anyway.


Saturday, September 5, 2009

Wildlife: Bearded Dragon

He's a mid afternoon visitor who got caught out basking in the open yard and when faced with a licky labrador and excited children chose to sit absolutely stock still and pretend to be a stick. Didn't work but allowed some nice photos.

Here's the lowdown on our new friend. Bearded Dragon is the common name for the Pogona which is a genus of lizards containing seven species.

Bearded dragons prefer to live in the arid, rocky, semi-desert regions and arid open woodlands of Australia. They are adept climbers, spending time on branches and in bushes, even found on fence posts when living near human habitation. They also bask on rocks and exposed branches in the mornings and afternoons. The species are found throughout Australia and are well known.

The genus is placed in the subfamily Agaminae of the family Agamidae. Their characteristics include spiny scales arranged in rows and clusters. These are found on the throat, which can be expanded when threatened, and at the back of the head. The species also displays a hand-waving gesture, thought to draw an attack from any predator that may be in the area. They also have the chameleon-like ability to change colours during rivalry challenges between males, and in response to temperature change and other stimuli.


Thursday, September 3, 2009

Wildlife: Cabbage Moth Larvae

Our Broccoli has been going extremely well and has grown lushously. Each morning we find some little green residents however. Cabbage Moth Larvae...fat, green and juicy (the chooks go nuts for these things)

Cabbage Moth's are greyish and small and around 10mm across. They lay their eggs on the underside of leaves (mainly cabbages he says stating the bleeding obvious). The larvae of caterpillars hatch from the eggs and then feed on the leaves so it’s the caterpillar which does the damage. The green-brown smooth textured grubs start eating the outer leaves before moving to the inner heart of the cabbage. We pick them off as soon as we find them before they tunnel into the heart of the plants. Plants favoured by cabbage moth apparently include cabbage, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, Chinese cabbage, celery, beetroot, rocket and watercress.

They might look cute but left unchecked they are very destructive. Additional protein for the chooks is always welcome though.


Thursday, August 27, 2009

Banana Tree: A New Home

Here is our new banana tree in its new home. It is well sheltered in the corner between the potting shed and the chook shed with the passionfruit vine giving some welcome shade in the afternoon. This one is a lady finger banana tree which has small, very tasty fruits. It is wind and disease resistant. They can reach heights of up to 16’ and send out shoots to create new trees so can quickly turn into a grove. We have several well sheltered spots picked out around the property for new trees as they emerge. We also intend to get a Cavendish at some stage as well.


Monday, August 24, 2009

Bamboo Grass: Much at Stake

Fun Fact: Bamboo is classified as a grass, not a tree!

In the search for an eco-friendly way to source material for stakes, perches, supports and pipe runners we needed to look no further than our own backyard. Introducing bamboo, thought to be the fastest-growing plant on the planet! We have 3 mature clumps of the stuff with about 40 stems to make use of. We have already cut down a number and utilised them in stakes for the apple trees, string stakes for planning out new projects and chicken perches!

And it does grow fast - bamboo can be harvested in about four years! Compare that to how long it takes most other trees of comparable mass to grow to full maturity. You can also stagger the stalks that you remove so that you have a ready supply of various ages at all times. It also does not require replanting because it continually creates new sprouts so it's an eternal source of strong material. Bamboo is so incredibly strong that certain varieties have been compared to steel! It is used in the construction of homes and even bridges in some parts of the world. It is also resilient and will merrily grow to over 60 feet in some cases — without the aid of toxic pesticides and fertilizers or much TLC.

Bamboo has also been used to make clothing, knives, spears, insulation, anti-bacterial ointments (bamboo contains a naturally occurring antimicrobial agent called kun that prevents the growth of bacteria.), name it really...magic stuff!


Friday, August 21, 2009

Banana Tree: A New Arrival

Welcome to our newest addition - a Banana Tree!

Thanks to friends we have a new Banana Tree for our growing edible gardens. Now bananas like a warm climate so we are hoping that the odd frost we get won't kill it.

Banana grows in a wide variety of soils, as long as the soil is deep and has good internal and surface drainage. The effect of poorly drained soils can be partly overcome by planting in raised beds, as the plant does not tolerate poor drainage or flooding. Hence we are planting this fellow on a raised bed behind the chicken coop, next to the main shed.

The planting site hase been chosen for protection from wind and cold weather and excessive heat as well. I will post pics once we have planted it to show the alcove we hope to soon reap rewards from.


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Vege Patch: The Extension Project (Phase 2 complete)

Phase 2 is officially complete. Well Phase 2.1 in any case as we still intend to put a fence around the area but that has been postponed pending the house extensions. Here are the pics of the final gardens (already planted with beetroots, carrots, broccoli and corn)

Monday, August 10, 2009

Strawberry Patch: Late winter berries

Well the new strawberries have started arriving and they are looking good. They are redder than they were last crop and actually appear firmer so it may be an easier sell to the chillen this time around. Maybe if we pick them all and put them in the fridge in a commercial punnet we can at least get them to try them this time around.


Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Vege Patch: The Extension Project II

The weed mat has now all be put down and we have started putting in the 20mm river stones to create workspaces around the various gardens. The garden area itself is edged with old railway sleepers - at $5 a pop they are a great way to have a nice rustic edge to gardens and other edging.

The area is coming together very nicely - without the constant battle with the in between grasses it will be far easier and more enjoyable to work the gardens. It gives the kids somewhere to play as well as rocks and dumptrucks go very well together.

The boys are all being great helpers with shovelling rocks around as well. Altogether the extension will cost us $50 for the sleepers, $25 in bolts, $90 in weedmatting, $160 in stones totalling $325 for easy access, low maintenance, healthy gardens!


Sunday, August 2, 2009

Avocado Trees: Let Nature Decide!

With the death of our mature avocado tree that we struggled to keep alive since we brought it home from the nursery and after much debate on the best approach and best location we have decided on a new strategy. Let Nature Decide! Amy's parents have brought us a multitide of old avocados from the nearby fruit shop and we are going to plant them all over the property and see which, if any, grow into trees.

If we get an absolute multitide of trees coming through then we can transplant a few into pots and either give them away or move them to the choicest bit of the land (where other Avocados are doing well) and create a grove of sorts. Nature knows what it is doing! Long live Entropy!


Saturday, August 1, 2009

First Paw Paw Tree: One Year

Well our Paw Paw tree is doing exceptionally well and is currently flowering (cheers and applause from the collected audience). Paw Paws are apparently very productive plants so we are looking to a future of bumper crops on this one.

It has grown over 3.5 feet in the last 12 months so that is exciting. It is obviously in the right spot there beside the potting shed and gets sun all afternoon.

I will keep you posted!


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Lemon Tree: Fowl Happiness

Any concerns of putting the chicken run around our fledgling lemon tree are now moot and void. Since the hens have been scratching and pooping all around it is has grown like there is no tomorrow.

Home grown lemons have a fantastic flavour and the ones we are getting are just delicious - especially as a tea! Slurp!


Mulberry Trees: One Year

Who doesn't love Mulberries? I remember as a kid sneaking down to a mate's place several blocks away to gorge ourselves on Mulberries. Of course the stains across our clothing always gave us away but oh... such sweet crime...

Here we have Mr & Mrs Mulberry one year on. They are doing well though we cut Mr Mulberry back as he is only there to propogate Mrs Mulberry's juicy offerings. Sounds a little sad and somewhat pornographic I know but that's the nature of things.

These trees give great shade once full grown as well so it will be pleasant in a few years to sit in and around these ones... and gorge on mulberries of course...


Sunday, July 5, 2009

Apple Trees: One Year

These tree were bought already one year old from the nursery. The have been planted in pairs to help in pollination and fruit propogation.

Well one year on and the apple trees are coming on...well...there is some life in least we think there is. The Tropical Anna is looking a might.. well... dead... but we are hoping spring will bring on a burst of new life.

We have four trees planted - a Tropical Anna, a Fuji,
a Granny Smith & a Red Delicious. They are paired off and companion planted with Tansies and Nasturtiums. Nasturtiums act as a trap plant for aphids. They are meant to be an ideal plant to keep away the ants who set up pesky aphid herds on apple trees.