Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Winter garden

Don't plant spring onions in winter in temperate regions. Either the chickens or the frost took most of these plants. It may be the particular bed I used, which I have noticed is more shaded so the spring onions were in frost much of the day. I have planted spring onions in raised beds before through winter so it is important to think about where these are planted. Now it is spring, I have planted more.
The leeks haven't grown much but are most are still present and not dead so I am hoping with spring they will decide to grow bigger.
The garlic is looking great and I am excited to see if we actually will have a decent garlic haul come December/January.
The shallots are not as successful. Not all the shallots have sprouted. Some have disappeared, possibly eaten by a chicken. But some have sprouted and are looking strong so we will at least get some shallots.
The red onions were only planted a few weeks ago in late winter. They are mostly still in the garden, not dead but not thriving as yet. Hopefully like the leeks they will take off with the warmer spring weather.
The garden is an ongoing experiment of trying different things, trying to repeat the same for what works and changing what doesn't. The advantage of our increasing garden space is hopefully we will have room for failures while still having enough vegetable supplies. I think I need to plant in excess, now we have the space, to see how much survives. It is definitely still a learning experience for the garden.
I have just improved our cloches from bird netting, held up by a random selection of bamboo. Now I use three hoops of flexible black pipe from the Bunnings plumbing section. It is black water pipe. It is relatively narrow, quite flexible, already cut into lengths and was only $5 something for each one. I push each end into the ground, bending it over the garden bed, then I put the next one in about a metre down and stretched the bird netting over the top, pulling it tight at each end to keep it up in the air above the plants. I was looking at buying the netting off the roll but ended up buying a 4m x 4m piece already packaged as part of my experimental kit. I used tent pegs at each end to tie it down to the ground. It looks a lot more organised than the previous set up. I use mulch across the garden so some of the bigger sticks are also now holding down the sides of my cloches to the edge of the bed.
I could buy also frost protective material for next winter and use it over the same black pipe, if they prove up to the task. My only concern is the cloche will not be tall enough for keeping my tomatoes all summer away from the birds. Once the current plants are big enough, not to be eaten by the pesky black birds, I plan to take off the netting. This won't be the case for the tomatoes, so I will need to find some long lengths of flexible pipe.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Firewood on the lifestyle block

Now I have worked out how to maximise food out of the chickpea can, back to the farm.
We cut down two massive tress but firewood has been in short supply from the property.
While we had cut down the two trees just after we arrived on the property, this was only six months before winter so particularly the gum was not properly dry to use for this winter's firewood.
The cat enjoying the new fire
We put a new fire in May. We decided on the Pyroclassic because it is designed to be heat and fuel efficient. It is also supposed to be able to heat a 220 square metre house. This fire burns wood from front to back so we can chop our firewood at 40cm lengths and they will fit in the firebox.
The firebox has restricters so you can only load a certain amount of wood. This means very dry, hard wood works the best. This year we have been experimenting with the different types of wood because we got in two wood deliveries, one in June and a smaller one in early August. This year we probably went through about 6-7 square metres of wood. The dense, dry, hard woods really push out the heat.
This fire is designed to run all day and night and long term this is the plan. It is more like a central heating furnace. So if it is cold, it does take a couple of hours to crank out the high heat and then it will keep pushing out the heat even after the fire has gone out as the ceramic firebox releases the stored heat. In the morning, it can still feel warm to the touch even when the fire inside is out from the night before.
It would seem good hard woods are woods like gum, tree lucerne and Australian hard woods. Kanuka is one of the best but we don't have much of that currently growing and it seems to be frowned on to burn.
Next year more of hard wood will be dry so we are hoping to be able to keep the fire going while we are at work so we can come back to a warm home. We also hope to keep it going all night so in the morning it is still putting out the heat and we can just add more wood. We need the dry, dense, hard word for that as to fit enough in to keep it going, the logs need to be smaller.
In the middle of winter this fire did all the heating for our hot water too. We turned off the electricity to the cylinder. Sometimes it also cooked our dinner on the top hot plate too or roasted our harvested nuts in their shells. So despite buying in firewood this year, rather than being able to use our home chopped wood, we think we haven't paid any extra for heating because our power bills were the lowest they have been all year.
The fire didn't heat our whole house, but this is more to do with the windows not being air tight and the ceiling needing an upgrade in insulation.
We also bought a fan (the valient ventium III) that is purely driven by the change in heat between the base sitting on the hot fire and the top. It is very quiet and helps push the air down to the other end of our large living room.
As we have attempted to work out our firewood supplies for next season, we see they are linked to sunshine and insulation.
Our home is well positioned for sunshine. In winter, in the middle of the day, the living room can reach 26-28C purely from the sunshine. The insulation in the roof does need improving so while we try to capitalise on the sun heated room with the fire, we are losing heat out through the roof. In time for next winter we hope to have at least completed roof insulation in the living room and had the window seals fixed so they all seal properly. It will be interesting see what sort of difference that makes to the room temperature and the amount of firewood we need to burn to keep it warm.
Unfortunately it was only at the end of winter, that we had the brainwave about the pile of macrocarpa prunings in a far corner of the property. We had looked on this all summer as a fire hazard but despite this, it didn't occur to us to use the dry wood as kindling. Now it has. We fill the firebox with broken off sections of the slender branches and the fire starts with a real roar, kicking out the heat.
We hope in the future to grow a kanuka patch that we can enjoy but also harvest and keep sustainable to have a continuous supply of dense, dry, hard wood. For next year and several more years to come, our clean up work on the property has given us enough wood to store for the winters. But we will need to start planning that firewood of some kind to have mature enough to use once the clean up work is complete.

5 Favourite Sights Seen

  • 1996 Watching tropical lightning turn night to day, outside a little wooden church in a small village in Sabah.
  • 2004 Flying down the Rainbow Valley at 8000ft in a cessna on a clear blue day.
  • 2003 Seeing and hearing Michael Schmacher rolling out of the pit garage in his Ferrari in Hungary.
  • 2009 Chancing upon 100 or more dolphins just off the Kaikoura Coast swimming around, jumping out of the water, doing somersaults and generally having fun.
  • 2006 Finding a pool at the bottom of a waterfall in the bush at Kaikoura that was full of playing baby seals.