Wintery update!

After a long, dry summer in Perth (8 months with no rain), winter has finally arrived. The gardens are looking refreshed (as are the weeds unfortunately!), and the rainwater tanks are looking much healthier.

The ‘pumpkin palace’ had provided plenty of zucchini, tomatoes, eggplant, rockmelon, green beans and of course pumpkin over the summer, and once we had harvested the last pumpkin, it was opened up to the chooks for the coming few months.

This rotation system is working well- the previous season’s pumpkin palace has been eaten down, fertilised and received lots of scraps, buried fish, carcasses etc so after a clean up it will be ready for the next round of planting.

the grass really encroached into this bed, but the chooks will soon sort that out!

We used to use a three way rotation, but find the two way pumpkin palace rotation we currently use works well. We manage to grow so many greens in the two aquaponics systems, we tend to use these two large beds for things like pumpkin and zucchini that take up lots of space!

Dragon fruit update…

Those beautiful dragon fruit flower buds got bigger and bigger every day!

It was so exciting, as we have never had flowers before. Just the one plant, had six gorgeous buds…….

……. with one opening one night and the other five a couple of nights later. Out we went with the head torch and paintbrush to assist with the pollination.

We were so excited, and so were the bees- they loved the flowers!

We were very hopeful that the pollination was successful, but unfortunately it wasn’t! The flowers fell off, and then the bit that should have been the fruit!

While that was so disappointing, we are looking forward to a winter that doesn’t mean we start from scratch yet again, followed by more flowering next summer!

Dragon Fruit?

Wow….. we have had dragon fruit plants for several years, but they have always struggled. We hoped the new place might suit them better, but the frost each year set them back so much it was like starting again each summer…including this summer.

But….. they are doing really after planting small cuttings in spring in raised (slightly) beds along with some berries (some beds have blackberries and others raspberries).

March 2024- They have grown and now overhang beautifully (despite us fighting the grass in the raised beds).

And FINALLY!! We have flower buds! First time ever!

Time will tell if it is too late in the season for them to form fruit, before the next frosts come, but fingers crossed! We are planning to protect them with hessian this year, so they aren’t as badly affected by the frost, plus they are closer to the house now so that may also reduce the impact.

Preserving and more preserving!

February has continued to be very hot (the highest we recorded was 44.7 Celcius!! Some areas of the garden suffered in the heat, but a few of the veggies thrived! We had tomatoes in abundance, and despite giving away loads to family and friends there was plenty to preserve.

So we tended to do indoor jobs on those hot days, including lots of preserving the produce that was in abundance, such as…..

Creole sauce is a wonderfully versatile sauce using up the abundance of tomatoes and other veggies. It will make a great pasta sauce, or a base to add meat to, or to add to casseroles in the cooler weather. We are always happy to have plenty of sweet chilli sauce on hand too, so have made quite a few bottles this season with our great ongoing crop of long red chilli.
Batches of stewed rhubarb, zucchini pickles, and more delicious Creole sauce!

With the heat, we have been working on perfecting our sourdough bread in a camp oven on the barbecue rather than having the oven on in the house- it has been quite successful, though more tweaking of the controls to get the best temperature for the final browning is needed.


Guinea pigs and much more!

Yes, that’s right- guinea pigs! We read that guinea pigs LOVE eating grass and weeds, so decided to get some to base in the orchard. Due to the risk of predators, we don’t let them free range, but keep them in an enclosure around a fruit tree. So far we have two groups of boys- the brothers Huey, Dewey and Louie; and the brothers Pinky and Perky. So far it has been successful, in that they have stayed safe and are eating down the grass!

Dewey and Louie in their enclosure around the pomegranate tree
Huey, Louie and Dewey (L to R)

It has been a particularly busy January, not just with the new arrival of the guinea pigs. The ducklings are growing at a rate of knots, and we have now moved the four from mama hen and joined them with the rest of the ducks.

We also cleaned out the yabby tank, and were thrilled with how many there are! After moving to McCarthy Park 2, we kept getting losses and really couldn’t figure out why. The only real difference between the places was that in MP 1 we used bore water (as that was our only water supply), and in MP 2 we used rain water (as the bore water is ok for the garden but is a bit brown and sulphide smelly). Well, in desperation we eventually just started using bore water to see if it made any difference, and it obviously has! There are large, medium and small yabbies, lots of tiny babies, and at least a couple of females ‘berried’- with eggs.

mid way through emptying and refreshing the tank- gorgeous blue yabbies!
Just some of the yabbies, the smaller ones

It has been HOT, far too hot to work outside during the middle of the day, so that is a good time to preserve the harvest.

We have had an abundance of tomatoes, still (!), and have made sauces and given plenty away. We also dehydrated a few, to store in oil for snacks and pasta.

Also the hot weather encourages other inside jobs like saving and storing seeds from our home grown vegetables….

Over the years, we have tried a few different seed storage systems and methods (eg by season, by month), but this is the most successful for us- alphabetical order!

Summer is upon us!

Summer is here, and with it an abundance of growth (until it gets just too hot!).

We continue to get an abundance of green beans…. we have been canning them, giving them away, eating lots…!

The vegetable spaghetti/spaghetti squash has been growing very well also, vertically really is the way to go!

….and tomatoes, how could we forget the tomatoes…there are so many every day!!

Tonight’s dinner…will be….something with beans and tomatoes!!

Spring growth!

Pumpkin palace is growing brilliantly with the warm weather! Although we had a run of days in the high thirties and even up to 41.3C one day, the garden has survived, despite an unfortunate set back with our bore pump deciding to give up. We went for one week with no watering at all, and the following week with limited water until we had the new pump installed. We had some losses during that time, but most of the veggies hung in there and bounced back with a few good soakings.

We have an abundance of beans, zucchini and daikon radish already, and the pumpkin, rockmelon and cucumbers are well on their way. In fact, for the first year we have decided to try growing zucchini vertically to save space, and so far it is working brilliantly!

The aquaponics has been mixed, with some things growing like crazy but others not surviving the onslaught of the slaters. Tomatoes, laksa leaf and galangal in particular are taking over!

It has taken us a while to get the berry beds set up the way we wanted them, but they are now going well also, with the raspberries in particular enjoying the location! We have started picking the odd berry, but soon there will be more ready to eat!

And finally, the quail roosters were dispatched and processed for the freezer- a very straightforward job compared to other animals. The place is a lot quieter now- they certainly made a lot of noise for such small birds!

The girls are laying away like crazy, so we are giving away quail eggs as well as pickling heaps to eat later.

All in all, a very productive end to spring!

Spring update!

Well, the quail really do grow quickly! It was no time at all when we realised the perfect brooder we had made for them simply wasn’t big enough! Fortunately the weather was warming so we were able to relocate them outside (but still with heat). This was much more hygienic for them and for us!

Because they were now in a larger area, it was also easier to keep up with the supply of food and water they needed. As the weather warmed up further, and they grew, we were able to use straw as the bedding and remove the heat sources. Now they are completely off heat and are well settled in.

The roosters are now crowing, though the females are not yet laying, and now we are getting ready for our first go at processing quail.

The adult quail, along with the hens, are laying so many eggs we have been pickling them as well as giving lots away to family and friends. Along with the lacto-fermented peas and the jars of sauerkraut always in the fridge, there isn’t a lot of room!

It has been fabulous to see so many orchids and wildflowers blooming on our property this year too- they just seem to have popped up randomly.

We have had loads of these gorgeous mignonette orchids pop up in the ‘oval’
Golden Long-heads- Podotheca gnaphalioides Graham-gorgeous native flower that has really spread this spring!

Quail update!

The incubation was a success! We had 15 of the 17 (after a late addition of 3 extra) eggs successfully hatch, and now, a week later they are eating and growing at quite a rate!

Day 15 was lockdown day, where the turning bits of the incubator were removed and gravel paper laid on the floor of the incubator. This is so they can get a good grip when they move around and reduce the possibility of splayed legs (which can happen if their feet slip around).

We also made sure the brooder was set up and ready, and ran the brooder plate to make sure everything worked. We used a deep tub, cut out a hole in the lid and replaced it with this mesh that could be opened and closed quickly and easily.

Day 18 we awoke to three hatched, and then throughout the day and into the evening, the others hatched except for two eggs! They were very noisily chirping around!

The next day, when they were dry and fluffy, we transferred them over to the brooder box. We felt they were a bit cold, so added a ceramic heat lamp which seemed to make them more comfortable for their first week. Now, just over a week later, they are eating and drinking huge amounts, and growing at a rate of knots!

Now we have to be so careful when we open the lid, as they jump straight up in the air!

Incubating quail!

Our quail are going very well, and after a slowing down of egg production over the coldest months, they are picking up again now.

Apparently their fertility reduces significantly as they get older, and because they don’t really get ‘clucky’ and sit on eggs, we decided to incubate some. Our goal is to produce some fresh breeding stock and hopefully some left overs to use as food- something we haven’t tried as yet!

We gently cleaned 14 eggs collected over the 3 or 4 days, and at the same time ran our incubator at the required 37.5 degrees celsius to be sure it was stable and working well.

Once we were sure it was all working well (first time using it since moving almost 3 years ago), we set the eggs inside.

While the Janoel 24 doesn’t have a specific quail egg holder, it’s movable parts have enabled us to incubate and hatch duck, turkey, chicken and guinea fowl eggs….and now quail eggs.

Fingers crossed!

Quail eggs in incubator- day 2 and turning nicely