Christmas & Pre-Christmas: Part 2

Following on from Part 1

The Garden

The last few seedlings have been planted so there are no more plants sitting on the outdoor table, just a few things growing in the Craft Room. Some of our broccoli plants bolted due to the unusually hot patch we had, or due to weather fluctuations. The three tomato plants in the new South Bed came down with a virus and I had to pull them out to prevent more plants getting infected. Two of them were Gardener’s Delight plants, which is ok, because I planted five more along the fence nearby, which look nice and healthy so far. But the third was the yellow cherry tomato, Broad Ripple Yellow Currant. Sadly, they are the only tomato I did not plant any extras of since they are quite vigorous and need space. But I’m making lemonade here, so these losses gave me space to plant spare pepper plants and lettuces.

Plants have to be watered, when it’s not pouring with rain like last week. Hooray that the water tanks are full at the moment! The tomatoes have to be woven through or tied to their supports and de-lateralled, I have to make sure that the cucumbers are climbing up their supports, that the pumpkins are kept within their bounds (eek!) and that pests are dealt with. There are many weeds to dig out across the whole garden. There are crops to harvest. We have heaps of salad greens to pick and eat. The tangerines are on their last legs but we’ve harvested our first peaches from the Springcrest peach tree in the Cedar Pen. Yum! There are strawberries, raspberries, boysenberries and blackcurrants producing varying amounts that need to be checked and then there are the Billington plums.

The plums ripen around Christmas, sometimes a little before and usually a little after, depending on how the weather’s been. It’s all go when they ripen. We eat them. I make plum chutney. I make plum butter. I freeze them. I give some away. Last year the first ones ripened two days before Christmas Day, which meant preserving had to be done soon after. This year they’re pretty much bang on Christmas. Only a couple of the first plums harvested in eagerness by the males of the household were fully ripe. Another one of my Christmas goals is to avoid the supermarket, and town in general, in the few days before Christmas. We will use what we have!

I have been trying to tidy things up outside, getting rid of bits of wood lying around, mulching branches in the Plant Alcove and tending to the Front Plot, which is a mass of green vegetable leaves now. The giant pumpkins are rampant. The Husband and The Little Fulla have been tackling the camellia and ivy pruning mountain along the side of the house with some strong encouragement from me. It was a mixture of mulching and chainsawing tasks. I’ve been spreading that mulch under the hedges along the front and in my Plant Alcove but I still need more mulch.

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The Front Plot: full of promise. Or at least giant pumpkins.
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The Little Fulla and The Husband had a number of sessions cutting and mulching all the tree prunings.

The neighbours had a bunch of trees cut down, one of them a very big pine that I liked looking at and others around it. Now we have another neighbour’s house to look at. I want to plant a tree.

Indoors

Inside the house, particularly on rainy days, I’ve been in purging mode. I think it’s the antedote to all the materialism that’s around at Christmas. I have de-cluttered most of the hall and bedroom closets, which feels so good! I drag my feet in getting around to it but once I’m underway it’s kind of exciting getting rid of unused stuff. It goes in the bin, gets recycled or gets given away.

I am very excited to report the finishing of a long-standing project: the spice shelf! After all the planning, building, sanding, painting and re-painting the correct colour, it is done. Then I got to organise, fill and label the spice jars and tidy up the areas where all the herbs and spices were before. I still need to get some smaller jars for the lesser-used ones, but they’re all up there. I’m so happy about having it done and looking tidy. And allowing more light into the kitchen too. Who needs Christmas presents?! I will be able to stock up on spices more with these bigger jars. Our kitchen is very small so using vertical space makes a big difference. The Husband will tell you that a couple of the shelves aren’t quite tall enough for the jars, but I’m not listening. There may have been a little measurement fuddling… That’s what happens when you take a couple of years to finish something. But the jars are in there with some gentle coaxing and I’m sure that the two jars that are still a tight fit will ease up the shelves soon.

It has been the year of small kitchen appliances failing, the rice cooker being the latest victim. Just before Christmas the rice cooker had a sudden onset of dementia and forgot how to cook. This brought a question to ponder: do we get another rice cooker or do we get a multi-cooker? I was already looking into bigger slow cookers, as our 3.5L one, try as I did, could not fit one of our full-grown chickens in it. And since I’ve been butchering more chickens around here, well, we need a good way of slow cooking the older ones. I was also considering the merits of pressure cookers. Thus, I received my Christmas present early: a multi-cooker Crock Pot that was almost down to half price. It can pressure cook, slow cook, steam, fry and cook rice. And make porridge and yoghurt and other things. This will be a great tool for our food-making.

The Chickens

You may have read that I made some rooster decisions: Chippee Hackee goes, Mr Anderson stays, Neo stays, for now. I tried to find Chippee Hackee a home since he was a good boy, but no-one committed. So, I did what any good homesteader would do: I surrounded him with potatoes, carrots and fresh herbs and let him be the first to try out the slow cooking function on the crock pot. After all, the carrots did need thinning. But he wasn’t the only chicken I butchered. I discovered that the main reason the black cockerel, Neo, was hiding out was that he had a broken wing. I’m not sure what happened, but it was hanging down loosely and was swollen at the base. Poor thing. That sealed his fate. We are left with Mr Anderson now, although the next decisions about cockerels are not far off.

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Well, I can confirm that a big rooster will fit in this crock pot.
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Mr Anderson (right) is still trying to get the hens to understand that he’s the new boss.

The chicks are all doing well. The brooder bunch were moved outside to the Big Cage in the garage. They are such a cute lot.

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Ok, one last Christmas ‘snowball’.

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