After Winter There’s Always Spring

It’s been a bit of a tough few weeks for me with the leg injury, the loss of a beloved cat and then some sickness. My leg is almost better now and I have started up modified morning exercises again. I’ve started to get back into projects, but there are other things to balance too. The increasing amount of warm spring sun is very welcome.

Spring is always a busy time on the homestead. The Little Fulla’s birthday comes at the start of spring, so there have been lots of party preparations, this time for the special age of five. There have also been starting-school preparations and goodbyes to wonderful friends and teachers at kindy. It’s a tricky time, but my darling child is going to a nice school, which I believe will do him well.

In the midst of all of this I have to keep up with spring seeds and seedlings, which are the hope of bountiful food crops to feed our family in the coming months. I have also started to catch up with less exciting but essential tasks like house cleaning and chicken coop cleaning and spraying. The weeds around the garden have been mocking me while I’m down, but I’ll get to them some day. I did manage to weed the Herb Garden.

The Herb Garden has been weeded.
Spring Crops

It’s all go with the spring seeds and seedlings. I have sown all the tomatoes and peppers. The fastest-growing tomatoes have just been pricked out and potted into small pots. I germinated all the pepper seeds on moist paper towels in plastic bags in the hot water cupboard. I did some this way last year and it worked better than sowing the seeds straight into seed raising mix. You can see which ones germinate by growing their first little root, then carefully nestle those ones into a shallow dent in a tray of seed raising mix. This was especially useful for some older seeds that had reduced germination rates as it means only the good, growing ones got put into the seed trays. The seeds also germinate faster with this method.

I was hoping to get the greenhouse finished for spring seed-sowing but life happened, so I’m back to windowsill and outdoor table growing again. Ah, well. Anything to get the plants growing.

The Garden

The Great Veggie Garden Expansion Plan is alive again! I have built a square raised bed in one back corner of the Veggie Garden. I was originally going to build an extra gate into the chicken pen in this spot, but the lemon tree is too much in the way and we don’t need an extra gate. Next, the temporary fence/gate will be removed, a post will be put in next to the paddock fence and the wire netting fence will be continued to complete it.

This post will also enable me to make the paddock fence higher by running wire mesh from it to more posts that will be put in further along the fenceline towards the potting shed. This will stop any future neighbouring livestock from eating my things. It also means I can grow some climbing things on it. Narrow raised beds are going to be built along that fence, with space for a bench seat in the middle, at the end of the Long Bed. I was originally going to grow a pleached olive tree hedge along there but decided not to because of the allergenic nature of olive tree pollen.

If I could start again, I would configure the raised beds a little differently. I would start with a wider bed along this paddock fence, start the Long Bed further away from it and avoid the extra little add-ons, but this is all part of the learning process. We’ve re-done the whole Veggie Garden area from a grassy, weedy, half-wild little garden. Back at the beginning I didn’t know it was going to expand this much. I intend to use every bit of it that I can. And even that won’t be enough for my food-growing desires!

The Great Veggie Garden Expansion Plan continues.

The vegetables in the Front Plot are doing pretty well, except for some issues with bolting. A lot of the oldest broccoli, in the first row, are going to seed instead of producing nice heads. If it were just the broccoli I would be tempted to entirely blame the variety but the tatsoi has also bolted, when it usually lasts for ages in the ground. One red cabbage has bolted too.

It could be partly because there’s fresh compost in the rows that is too rich for them. But then, the broccoli and tatsoi, plus one savoy cabbage in the main Veggie Garden have also been bolting and I didn’t top up those beds with compost. One seed source states that ‘De Cicco’ broccoli (the bolter) needs a rich soil, while another states that you need to go easy on the compost or high nitrogen fertilisers. So that’s confusing.

I’m surmising that the bolting is mostly the fault of the weather. It has been a rather mild winter, in fact, the warmest winter on record for our nearest city. I think the fluctuations and warmth may have messed up the brassicas’ growing system. The rest of the cabbages are fine though, as is all the kale and the few cauliflowers. I’m actually happy that one of each of the cabbages are going to seed in different areas so I can save seeds from them. I have one different variety of broccoli in the back section of the third row of the Front Plot. I’m very curious to see whether they bolt or not.

The Front Plot is growing most of the things nicely. The oldest broccoli and the tatsoi are in the naughty corner.

The slugs and snails are having a fielday with some of the veggies, so I need to deal a blow to them.

Food

We have more stored or preserved food left than we did at the start of last spring, so that’s good! We have plenty of squashes and pumpkins left. In the freezer department we have lots of grated squash, lots of plum flesh, some peach slices, tomato soup, chicken stock, juices of various fruits and a few other bits and pieces. We’ve just run out of plum chutney because I didn’t make as much last summer, but I may try to make some from frozen plums. I don’t know if we can last four months without our plum chutney. We’ve still got feijoa chutney.

Winter makes me feel like having warm spices so I recently made up some chai tea mix. I have used it with black tea to make chai tea, in coffee, in lemon honey drinks and even by itself as a caffeine-free hot chai drink in the evenings. I add a bit of honey, plus a dash of almond milk for tea. Here is the chai recipe I use. I just make the dry chai masala mix to store in a jar rather than following the whole, authentic process. I only make 1/4 the amount in the recipe, as it makes a lot. I use 1/8 – 1/4 teaspoon of the mix in a drink, so it goes a long way.

Chai mix.
Knitting

I’ve lost track of how many hats I’ve knitted for people this year, particularly baby hats. But I needed a break from hats so I acquired some large 12mm knitting needles and started working on a scarf for myself with the thick black yarn I already had waiting. It is a chunky, loose scarf that will have tassels added at the end.

The chickens need to have a blog post of their own, because there’s a lot going on in that department. They are doing well though. There are plenty of other things underway too. In the coming weeks I will be working on the greenhouse frame, building raised beds, deciding which of the other ten million projects to work on next, growing many, many baby spring crops and then there’s the chicken plucker. Apparently the worst time you can try to build a chicken plucker in our country is during a pandemic because of delays in shipping parts for it from other countries. The last item required for the chicken plucker is almost here, so the time of the chicken plucker is coming soon!


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