Apologies. No time to write this week. Life is getting hectic on the farm. Will post again next week
PS if you would like to comment or write back, click on the blue "Comment" at the top of the post and a separate screen should come up where you can have a say.
Have a good week.
;It is a busy time on the farm and in the market garden at this time of year. The weather warms up the days get longer (especially with daylight saving) and there seems to be so much to do. Much of this activity is focused in the garden. Today for example, we removed all the frost protection covers; weeded, weeded and then even more weeding; planted broccoli, leeks, lettuces and radicchio; pumped water from our neighbours tanks as he doesn't use it; and sprayed the entire garden with "eco oil and a touch of pyrethrum to keep the plague proportions of aphids in check. At this time of year when the weather warms up and it is very dry, aphids are a major problem. They build up very quickly across the garden and start causing damage before their is enough time for the beneficial insects to be attracted to the garden.
Apart from the garden activity, there is also a lot happening with the animals. There are the two geese sitting on eggs and the gander is alternating between forlorn, loneliness and the aggressive protector. Every so often there is a cacophony of alarm honks as a chooks or a duck wanders near the nest. Speaking of ducks, our three girls, have taken to wandering the street as the drains are still offering some nice green grass. Then of course there are the turkeys. They are growing rapidly and today we moved them to some new grass. Amid all this activity there was a long roar of sound as our bees swarmed. Just another interesting day on the farm.
A note of caution to end on. With the warm weather it is very tempting to plant out the summer vegies, tomatoes, peppers, pumpkin, beans and so on, but there is still some cold nights and frost around. On Saturday morning we had a light frost forming a thin layer of ice on the water bowls. While the temperature did not drop much below zero, it is enough to kill or severely damage summer plantings . Be patient, in our cold climate it is better to wait until November for summer planting.
While it is necessary to track the weather in all its vagaries, farm and garden activity cannot stop while we ponder the meaning of it all. In fact this unpredictability means as farmers and gardeners we need to be flexible as well as responsive. It means we are not only managing the present but also rethinking the planning for tomorrow.
This time of year is always a busy time in the garden, preparing beds, planting seed and seedlings. The Spring and Summer plantings are significant, with the majority of cold climate food production occurring during this period. The current warm weather makes it very tempting to move the timing of our Spring planting forward and this may be an option. However it is important to remember that this burst of warm weather does not mean the end of our frost season and the majority of Spring and summer plantings are incredibly frost tender. Potatoes are the hardiest and can be planted out over the next few weeks. We generally plant our first crop of potatoes in mid October. At this time of year, mid September, we are mainly doing seed raising of the summer fruits - chili, tomatoes, eggplants, peppers. In early October we start the pumpkins - not in the ground but in seed boxes.
Throughout August and September we have been planting out seedlings of brassicas (cabbages, broccoli, kale) lettuces, Asian greens, leeks, onions, chard/silver-beet, beetroot, coriander, spring onions, radicchio, endive, late season broad-bean. Soil temperatures have been very cold. Radish and Asian turnips seeds have been germinating well for at least the last 8 weeks, however the soil has only recently warmed enough for the germination of carrot and pea seeds.
Growing peas is always a challenge in our cold climate. We generally start planting peas at the beginning of August, but this year we have only had germination in the last 2 weeks as the soil has remained quite cool. We will continue planting shelling peas, sugar snap peas and then snow peas through to November. In November we start planting beans and sweet corn and commence the garlic harvest.
The main responsive issues given the current weather are: managing the watering; protecting vulnerable young plants from wind; mulching all the new plantings in preparation for the continuing dry weather, and on the rest of the farm, securing buckets, watering cans and all manner of farm and garden paraphernalia against the wild winds.
Importantly, stay strong...this dry windy weather won't last forever.
Spring has been topsy turvey on the weather front. Nice cold mornings including -6, very warm days up to 23, 70km winds and NO RAIN. It is very very dry. Spring always likes to throw a weather curve ball and it certainly has so far.
Our two female geese Netta the elder and Thelma, her 2 year old daughter, are both sitting on eggs and taking impending motherhood very seriously, being cross with intruders of any species and barking warnings at one and all. Manuel Talouse the Goose, Mani for short, the father to be, spends most of his time forlorn and alone with brief stints as the knight in shining amour protecting his maidens. Another two weeks should see a significant extension to our goose family.
A final reminder for this week is that in this dry weather, it is really important to make sure there is plenty of water available for all your stock. Ducks need lots of water. All the poultry are drinking much more and this will only increase as the weather continues to heat up. We also need to remember to have shallow bowls of water with rocks and twigs for bees and other insects to access around the garden. These smaller creatures in times of drought also need to have water available.
Today (Monday 11th September) we collected the little turkey poults from the hatchery in Bargo starting the process for Christmas turkey. Turkey poults are picked up or delivered as day olds. In fact this is the case with all poultry. In the first 24 hours of their life all breeds of poultry and water fowl can survive withour food or water as they are still being nourished by the egg. However they do need to be kept warm and have good air circulation. It is critical however that they receive food and water as soon as possible. Mortality rates can be quite high if food and water are delayed beyond the first 24 hours.
All the preparations for the poults needs to have occurred before their arrival. Ideally you should set up the brooder area 48 hours before the poults arrive. This is particularly important in cooler areas like Braidwood. This gives a chance for the bedding material to warm up and to ensure that the heat source is operating properly. These cute little babies need to be kept warm and cosy. We have a dedicated small shed to be our brooder house. A brooder is a place where young poultry are raised until they have enough feathers keep themselves warm. It should provide protection from predators; protection from moisture; be free from drafts; have good ventilation and most importantly a reliable heat source. In fact all the things that a mother provides for her young. For a heat source we use heat lamps with globes that produce heat but no light.
The feeding schedule becomes the most important aspect of raising turkeys and for that matter all poultry for meat. It starts from the day of their arrival until the day they leave for the abattoir in 16 to 20 weeks time. We mainly feed the turkeys a homemade mash. We don’t rely on prepared pellets. By feeding mash we can individualize, adjust and modify specifically to the animals needs. So just as organic gardening relies on the principle of healthy soils to create health plants likewise to sustain health animals resistant to disease they need to be raised on healthy soils and good food. All animals require healthy gut activity to maintain the balance of parasites and resist disease. By feeding our turkeys a homemade mash we can add mineral and herbal supplements to maintain their health. So just as Kentucky Fried Chicken is cooked with a blend of secret herbs and spices Wynlen House turkeys eat a blend of herbs and minerals.
Of course these aspects also form part of the basic tenets of any practice of animal husbandry. We consider how you raise, feed and care for your animals is vitally important. Our animals are raised with loving care. This does not mean that they are treated as pets but it does mean that we treat them with respect. We care about what they eat, their health, their housing and their environment. They live happy lives and this is very important to us. An animal that lives a happy health life will provide quality food.
This question is one that often causes much discussion amongst gardeners and foodies alike and is a regular topic of discussion at our stall. Technically there is no difference between silverbeet and chard with both having the Latin sub family name of Beta vulgaris.
Generally speaking whether we refer to these greens as silverbeet or chard is dictated by where we are raised. In Australia the greens from the Beta vulgaris family are most commonly called silverbeet, while in the States it is known as chard. The greens that we refer to as silverbeet grow as a cluster. The stems are broad and white and the leaves are fan like and have deep green crumbled leaves. The most common variety is Fordhook Giant, with Silver Ribs being another commonly grown silverbeet.
Many gardeners often differentiate between silverbeet and Swiss chard although they are the same species. Naming silverbeet as the green with white stems and calling the green with coloured stems and veins (crimson, red and yellow) as Swiss chard or coloured chard.
Silverbeet or chard is a very popular green with highly nutritious and flavourful leaves and stalks. Like many leafy green vegetables, silverbeet or chard are rich in an array of minerals and vitamins; high levels of magnesium, calcium, vitamin K, iron, potassium, vitamin A, zinc, copper, vitamin C, dietary fiber, and vitamin E. It is generally eaten cooked as the leaves and stalk have quite a thick texture. However young tender leaves are sometimes eaten raw.
Silverbeet or chard however is not the same as spinach. Spinach often referred to as English spinach has the Latin sub family name of Spinacia oleracea. It grows less vigorously and has smaller leaves than silverbeet. It is also softer and has a green stem rather than a large thick white or coloured stem. Spinach is a very versatile green and can be eaten both raw or cooked as the leaves are very tender. Spinach also has a different nutritional profile to silverbeet, containing more calcium and beta-carotene, around a third more iron, and folate.
Just to add more confusion to this discussion some states in Australia have in the past referred to silverbeet as spinach. Traditionally in NSW silverbeet has been referred to as spinach which is technically incorrect. While this misnaming is not as common as it once was it does still occur.
Silverbeet and spinach also require slightly different growing conditions. Silverbeet, in temperate parts of Australia, can be sown and grown during most times of the year, in cooler areas it is generally sown from Spring to Autumn. Silverbeet is reasonably frost tolerant although in our extremely cold region growth can be stunted and the stalks damaged by our continuous frost season. (over 100 frost days a year) Spinach on the other hand, is far less heat tolerant than silverbeet or chard requiring a cool soil for germination and is only planted in late autumn and winter and in very cold areas, early spring. Spinach generally has a far shorter picking season than silverbeet. Both silverbeet and spinach require a rich well drained soil high in phosphorous, nitrogen and potassium and of course plenty of compost. The most common varieties of spinach grown are Bloomsdale and Winter Giant.
Another green also referred to as a spinach is New Zealand spinach or Warrigal greens a native green in, New Zealand and Australia. It is not from either the spinach or silverbeet / chard family, coming from the Tetragonia genus. The plant is a ground cover and will form a thick carpet. The leaves are 3 –15 cm long, triangular in shape, and bright green. This leaf shape is similar to spinach hence the reference in the name. However the leaves are thick, and covered with tiny rounded fleshy lumps that look like waterdrops. It grows best in saline soils on the coast.
No matter what name we know these greens by they are highly nutritious and great greens to have in the garden. currently we are selling English spinach on our weekly stall at the Provisions courtyard; and in the coming weeks we will also have some lovely chard (silverbeet) including couloured chard.
See you there.
The daffodils are in bloom always a sign that the weather is warming up. It is not yet officially Spring but there has certainly been a touch of spring warmth in the sun over the past few weeks. Of course it is August and we still have more cold frosty mornings and harsh winds ahead along with a touch of snow across the region on Sunday.
The slight increase in temperature that sees the daffodils blooming also causes the energy to start flowing in deciduous trees. The first sign of this change for us as gardeners is the slight “swelling” or budding that occurs along the branches and tips as the precursor to flowers and leaves. The trigger for this to happen, comes from the dormant buds at the very tip of each branch and twig. They are like sensors and respond to the air temperature and when the conditions are right they release a hormone. This hormone kick starts the tree into life and the roots start to pump. This is often referred to by the term “rising sap” which is the point where the tree draws moisture and sugars stored in the roots, and pumps them under pressure to force out leaves and outer growth. During the period where the sap is rising if you cut a tree it will bleed significantly and in volume. Pruning should not occur during this time as it can significantly impact on the tree’s growth and strength.
It is during this transition period from winter into spring when the sap is rising that sap can be collected from particular trees, for example sap from maples for the making of maple syrup.
This strong flow of sap only lasts for a short period of time, a few days to a few weeks depending on the tree species. As soon as growth starts on the trees and photosynthesis begins, this flow normalises.
This brief transition period is a great time to provide trees with a little bit of gardener love. By spraying fruit trees with micro nutrients and microbes we can give them a boost as they burst into flower. There are a number of commercial products available for this but the most simple and equally effective can be easily made at home or on the farm. Compost teas, worm juice, seaweed brews (if you are near the coast) or a lacto-bacillus inoculate are all excellent ways to provide fruit trees with a spring boost. This spray boost should not replace your annual manuring program for you fruit trees but can be an additional component.
The first fruit trees in our garden to show they are “transitioning” from winter into spring are the nectarines, followed by the nashi pears and the peaches.
Its been a sad week this week as we have eaten the last of the stored winter pumpkins. I have had a foodie affair with pumpkins through this autumn and winter. Pumpkin has always been one of my favourite vegetables. I love it roasted, mashed, as a pasta sauce and of course, as soup. However this pumpkin season I have also been exploring sweet pumpkin dishes. In my view the Americans have perfected the spiced, sweet, pumpkin mixture, used for sweet pumpkin pie, and a host of other sweet pumpkin foods. Thank you America!
Pumpkins are part of the genus cucurbita. This includes cucumber, gourds, melons and squash. Pumpkins are a sub species within the squash family. Technically all pumpkins are squashes but not all squashes are pumpkins. Squashes and pumpkins are generally described as either winter or summer types. The summer types are fast maturing, (around 50 days) have soft rinds, are quite perishable and consumed when the fruit is young. They include courgette or zucchini; patty pan squash, scallop squash, and many more. Winter squashes & pumpkins take longer to mature (one hundred days), have a long storage life (several months versus two weeks), are consumed when the fruits and seeds are fully mature, and have durable hard rinds. Winter pumpkin varieties include Australian butter, jarrahadale, Queensland blue, masque de Provence, heritage varieties of butternut such as wrinkled butternut and so on.
Whether you use the term pumpkin or squash to describe these vegetables primarily depends on the country you are in. In Australia and New Zealand we predominantly use the term pumpkin and rarely use the term squash, while for example in America squash is the predominant term used while pumpkin specifically refers to orange coloured species in this family.
Both summer and winter squashes are grown in the same season. Summer squash receives its name due to the fruit being harvested and consumed in the summer while winter squash or pumpkin is harvested later in the season and if cured properly will store well into winter for winter eating.
There are so many wonderful varieties of pumpkins. We prefer pumpkins that have a firm flesh, a deep colour and strength of flavour. These include buttercup, a smallish deep green pumpkin; pottimarron an orange red pumpkin with a chestnut flavour; Australian butter and jarrahdale both firm fleshed, good storing winter pumpkins.
We ended the Autumn harvest season with around 60 or more pumpkins for winter storage. While we sold a lot of pumpkins it also meant that there was plenty of pumpkin for experimental cooking. For cooking I like firm fleshed pumpkins. Pumpkins can be watery, and for sweet pies you need your pumpkin mix to be quite firm. Baking is a dry method of cooking pumpkin and is the method used for making a sweet spiced pumpkin mix. This years favourite recipes included spiced pumpkin (friendship) cake with a pumpkin cream; sweet pumpkin scones with maple syrup butter and the absolutely fantastic and totally delicious pumpkin ice cream. This culinary delight will be featuring in our next slow food lunch on 24 September, along with other seasonal specialties from the Wynlen House garden. Come and Join us n September 24th for a relaxed meal, great setting, clean produce, meat and preserves grown in our kitchen garden...and pumpkin ice cream! Its the best.
The first two months of winter have been very cold and dry and this can often lead to a hot dry spring. If the weather in the first weeks of August are any indication, then a warm spring seems likely. Already the soil temperature is heating up which means it is time to start preparation for the spring and summer garden.
Soil preparation is the key to any successful garden. Strong healthy soil with accessible nutrients means strong healthy plants. Organic in the dictionary comes from having the characteristics of a living organism. In general terms we understand organic as meaning gardening without chemicals. That is we use additives and inputs that have originated from or are by-products of living matter. Gardening organically also means treating the soil as if it were alive. That is, something needing food, water, shelter and proper mineral content to ensure it’s health.
When doing some background reading I came across the term soil husbandry. In exploring this term further I came across a lot of references from the mid 1800’s and beyond. It is apparent that Soil husbandry has had a long tradition within agricultural soil science. In modern times it appears that the focus is primarily around preventing soil erosion and degradation, however in it’s more traditional sense soil husbandry seeks to sustain the agricultural soil resource though general care and management; by sustaining, feeding and maintaining soil health.
Whether you are a practitioner or proponent of organic based agriculture or a practitioner of industrial agriculture it still all begins and end with the soil. The major difference in these two forms of agriculture is the thinking and understanding behind them. Industrial agriculture is based on the premise that natural systems are inadequate and need to be replaced with human systems. Ie inorganic fertilizers are superior as they are outside of the natural system. On the other hand organic agriculture sees that the systems of the natural world rather than being inadequate offer patterns worth following.
Compost is one of the most important additions to the garden and fits with the “organic” view of soil health. Compost is an excellent source of organic matter and nutrients. It contains all the major plant nutrients, nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, as well as all the minor nutrients that plants need. Furthermore, it releases these nutrients slowly, thus minimizing runoff and leaching. Compost is made from organic materials that have been broken down into a dark, crumbly substance, known as humus. If you do not have your own supply of quality compost, there are other alternatives. We are very fortunate that all the green waste collected in our region is being converted into compost. Simone Dalkara is the compost maker and runs the Landtasia compost facility. It is the only organically certified green waste facility in NSW (and possibly Australia) and her compost is full of nutrients and microbiology.
While there are whole books written on the subject of soil and a large range of organic inputs to use on soil, the following is a simple regime for home gardeners in preparing and maintaining the kitchen garden:
This formulae is one of the most valued by the gardeners who attend our popular day workshop “ All Season Cool Climate Vegetable Growing” www.wynlenhouse.com/workshops.html
Bronwyn Richards, Principle gardener, Wynlen House
Post Script: The new larger pond we installed last week for the geese has been highly successful and there is romance in goose world.
Monday this week was the first proper day back at work in the Wynlen House market garden. Not the best of days to commence our regular farm & garden work routine. To ease into things on this classic August windy day, we set up a new pond for the geese (recycled, from the Green Shed in Canberra) and prepared a new night pen for them as well. It’s August and by the beginning of Spring the geese will be entering the mating season. Manuel Toulouse the Goose, Manni for short is our relatively new male and we want the breeding season to go well. Toulouse geese are the largest of the geese breeds and as geese prefer to mate in water, our small plastic sandpit ponds are not suitable for breeding. Hence the deeper larger pond.
Through the Autumn and Winter months our geese and ducks have been living happily together, but once the mating season starts the harmony ends, not only is there sexual rivalry, but the breeds become totally intolerant of each other. Early separation of the waterfowl flock before the breeding season starts, makes life in the farmyard much calmer for us all.
Geese are the most majestic birds of the waterfowl breeds, and have traditionally been a part of the mixed farm or small holding. As large waterbirds they only breed seasonally (in Spring) laying up to a maximum of around 40 eggs. Geese mate for life with one gander to between 3 to 5 females. Geese should begin their breeding life in their second year and the females can continue breeding up to 10 years of age. Ganders maintain viable fertility for up to 6 years of age.
Unfortunately, geese have a reputation for being aggressive. This is certainly true during the breeding season. Ganders can be very unruly and protective of their partners and once the females are sitting they will also not hesitate to hiss and bite. Incubation can take 28 to 34 days. Once the goslings hatch out both parents are incredibly protective, just as most new parents are, and coming between the parents and their goslings is going to see you definitely attacked. An angry goose, neck extended, wings spread, charging at you, is definitely a scary sight. If that goose connects with you, it can be a very painful experience. However, being sensible around your geese during this time, in particular keeping young children away, will mean far less tears or life long psychological scars. And with all animals who are being protective maintain eye contact, and don’t turn your back.
So some would ask why would you keep geese. Apart from breeding season they can be delightful birds and very sociable. They are always ready to have a chat, and generally like to broadcast to the world. Geese are not silent birds! They are great as watch dogs or should that be warning birds, and of course young birds (6 months old) are a beautiful culinary addition to the table. We keep our breeding flock for this purpose. We enjoy sharing our farmyard with these wonderful birds.