Baby pavement lettuces

I’m going back to working full-time hours. Hurrah! Money! More importantly, it’s work that really interests me (science!) and enables me to develop some really handy skills. But I will admit that I’m a bit worried that I will slip into old bad habits. That I’ll fall back onto the old conveniences, rather than the sustainable habits that I’ve had the luxury of extra time to experiment with and instil into daily life. On the other hand, a lot of the new habits have been much easier than I anticipated, some of them downright lazy. This includes leaving the lettuces in my garden go to seed, and I just found out that this lazy step is paying off! There is a whole new crop of baby lettuces peeping out from in-between our recycled brick pavers in the back yard. I counted 9 🙂

I’m sure that with no effort at all on my part these will soon be large enough to supplement a bean burrito or tasty salad. And without driving anywhere or using any packaging at all. In fact, seeing as they are growing in-between the pavers (rather than in dirt) they probably won’t even require washing. Easy sustainability win!

Garden gains and losses

Strangely perhaps, my efforts to grow some of our own produce were more successful when we lived in an apartment. Partly due to making really excellent soil by fermenting vegetable waste in a bokashi bin and then burying that nutrient source into wooden planter boxes. With full sun on a North facing balcony, those boxes were really high yielding.munched spinach

I thought it would be just as easy to grow food in our backyard, which came replete with raised veggie beds but they haven’t so far been as bountiful as the balcony planters. The soil in the raised beds is quite depleted, so I’m working to enrich it with as much home-made compost as I can. And then there are the pests. Up on the first floor balcony I didn’t have to worry about them much, but this weekend I found out that the local possums had struck again!

The spinach had been growing really nicely and I was starting to ponder what recipe to use the next harvest in but I was too slow. At least the possums don’t actually eat the whole plant and it should bounce back.

 

broadbeansproutWhen I went over to inspect the sad spinach I cheered up considerably when I noticed that my broad beans were sprouting. The possums seemed to leave these alone last winter, so perhaps the beans I planted around the spinach will protect it.

The strong winds we’ve been having have  been blowing my tomatillos off the plant before they are quite ripe. Or perhaps that means they are ripe enough?

And I dug out the chilli plant and potted it up to see if it will survive the winter indoors (we will get our first frost this week). I tried that with an eggplant last winter but it didn’t make it, so fingers crossed.

We’re certainly not feeding ourselves purely with home grown produce, but it’s still fun, even when you inadvertently end up feeding the local critters instead.

A bucket full of goodness

I love composting and I love (trying to) grow things. I love the idea that I can take kitchen waste material, transform it into great plant food, and perhaps even turn it into food for us. I buy the cheapest possible potting mix and usually amend that with compost to top up veggie garden beds, or grow things in pots. We’re at the end of autumn here so it’s a great time to grow some winter lettuces and other things, yet my compost is not ready. What to do? I realise that I can buy compost from the store (not as good as my own) or I can give the nutrient poor potting mix a real boost by mixing in some fertiliser. That’s when it occurred to me that rather than getting in the car and driving to the gardening store to buy a bag of sheep manure, I could forage much closer to home!

Autumn has thankfully brought us some rain so there is much more green grass around. We may even have to mow the lawn (I can’t remember when we did that last, at least a month ago). The kangaroos are loving it, and have been very bold and venturing into the suburbs to enjoy the sporting ovals and local parks.

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A damp little roo as the morning fog clears

Subsequently, there is plenty of fresh roo poo everywhere! It didn’t take too much work, but we did get the added benefit of a little bit of exercise while collecting a whole bucket from our local neighbourhood. Hubby and I perhaps roused some curiosity in other people out enjoying the parks (there were 3 simultaneous soccer matches going on down at the soccer field), but I was quite pleased that we were able to fill the whole bucket so easily.

I think roo poo is less rich than other manures, so I think it should be safe to just mix into the potting mix and use straight away. It will be fun to experiment with it anyhow.

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Rainy Day

I can’t remember when we last had a proper rainy day. When all we have to do is be at home and cosy, with soft rain falling outside all day long. It’s really lovely.
It’s especially appreciated because the weather has been drier than usual, so the garden really needs the water. We’ve also been working fairly hard (my husband in particular!), so it’s a great excuse to slow right down.

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The view outside right now, the Japanese maple got a little burnt over summer but still managed to put on some stunning autumn colour

I get a lot of pleasure from growing my own edibles but at the same time, I remember that my main motivation for growing them is attempts at a more sustainable life. Therefore, the garden hasn’t been very productive over summer, when it has been very dry (and I try to only use tank water). It’s also been warmer than normal, hence why the chilli plant and even some basil is still limping on in the otherwise bare veggie patch. I threw down some lettuce seeds and poked in some broad beans yesterday, so here’s hoping the rain will lead to speedy germination and lots of leafy greens in the near future.

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It’s also great to see that my new planting of Rubus parvifolius (native raspberry!) is taking off, with new leaves emerging. I didn’t even know that Australian native raspberries were a thing. The best thing about this little bush with tasty fruit is that it can grow in the shady position in my garden where not much else would thrive. That should also make it a little more water-efficient (unlike the metal edged raised bed, which gets very hot and quickly dry). I’ve been trying to grow a few things in the shady garden bed underneath the larger trees, for a more visually appealing garden but also because undergrowth plants should help attract and protect the smaller native birds and lizards.

While the plants outside are enjoying a long drink, hubby has put on Indiana Jones for background noise and nostalgia while we potter around the house. I guess it may not seem like an exciting life to some, but these slow days really do contribute well to our sustainable life. I’ll cook up a lovely meal soon, using locally grown vegetables, dried chickpeas bought in bulk and always with an eye towards minimal packaging and waste.

I know that I’ve blogged about this before, but I also really love days like this to add to my ongoing art project that is my patched jeans. The current count is 7 patches. A friend asked me yesterday if I do it for fashion or to save money. I’m not sure that anyone would really see them as fashionable! And I do like the fact that they are saving me some money. This pair I bought for $7 second hand, and I’m certainly extending their life, but I also have my ‘good jeans‘, which I was happy to pay $200 for because they came from an ethical supplier. No, my reasons for patching up this old pair begun with sustainability, continue with comfort and the knowledge that the sewing calms my mind, and also the intriguing thought that perhaps one day they will consist entirely of patches. And I don’t think anyone else will have a pair quite the same!

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Tree week!

I’m a bit late to the party but it’s currently Canberra tree week. What could be more sustainable than trees? Here are some beauties that I saw on my mini mountain walk today:

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I’m not sure if the photo I took with my phone does them justice, but the almost silver bark really shone in the afternoon sun.

I’ll have to find out what species they are, I had a look on the Atlas of Living Australia and my closest guess after looking there would be the Brittle gum (Eucalyptus mannifera), but perhaps they are scribbly gums or something else?

In other local news Canberra now has a mattress recycling scheme! So Cool. The metal springs are recycled and the fabric components can be used to make carpet underlay and other things.