Nature 1 Narf7 nil
I am sitting here at 3.30pm on Friday full of equal parts elation and trepidation and surrounded by the meagre harvest that “Growing season 2015/16” delivered. In Sanctuaries favour, I did very little actual “harvesting” in the past season and tended to zoom up at 4.30am, stumble around in the dark, fall over the hose and mutter incessantly whilst hosing swimming pools worth of water onto her parched thirsty mounds. I just read that last sentence back and it sounds suspiciously like a Mills and Boone shirt ripper. I will cease and desist with the flowery prose and just get down to the nitty gritty of what we are doing, where we are doing it and, most importantly, HOW we are doing it for anyone brave (foolish) enough to follow in our pioneering footsteps.
The elation comes from managing to coerce four of the sealed fridges from where we wrangled them inside the back gate, up the steps to the washing line and across the swamp that our backyard area has become. We found a way to pull the very heavy fish farm netting that we covered Sanctuary with up from one of the sides and staked it up with sticks in order that we could heft the fridges through and up the slope to the top of Sanctuary. We started with the smallest to haul which tended to be the freezers as we figured by the time we get to the very big and heavy fridges we don’t really want to be hauling them up that soggy slope that threatened to suck our gumboots right off of our feet this morning. We managed to scoop out enough of the mud to place the fridges roughly where they are going to be situated and tomorrow we will be hauling bricks to use to level them out as well as deconstructing the other areas where we are going to put lines of fridges.
The trepidation is from the enormity of the enterprise. We tend not to do anything by halves. The old adage “start out as you mean to finish off” is a goodn’ especially when you may as well haul 24 fridges up into Sanctuary as 4. The mud, the running stream, the depressing site of vegetation in the winter and the ever-present whitefly add to the air of desperation. This is my “vegetable garden’s” 5th evolution. It’s changed form almost as much as The Doctor has. We have had to keep evolving and changing our ideas as nature, pest species, wildlife, drought etc. have made their presence felt and taught us some life lessons that we needed to take on board. Climate change means that we will need to know how to garden smarter, not harder and thus we need to find ways to give us what we want sustainably. All of this work, sealing, hauling, situating, filling and planting out our fridge wickers will be worth it come spring but at the moment we are right at the beginning of the process and the knowledge of what we still have to do far outweighs its virtues.
There are some decidedly dirty rooty things in my kitchen. Seriously, who first started rootling around in the soil, found a grubby root and thought “That’ll do me!” And how many of our poor little ancestors had to drop to the floor clutching their throats in order to give us the wealth of vegetably and tubery goodness that we have available to us today. I am ever the experimentrix. Most of my experiments end in tears or covered in whiteflies but that has never stopped me from plotting my next crop of something new. The fridge wicking beds are going to be planted out with veggies that we actually like. If I have learned nothing from our past experimentation, it’s that a lot of experimental veg are not something that Steve is going to eat. I have a half kilo of oca tubers that I am going to store and grow in the wicking beds as I found out recently that they have interesting antifungal properties, especially when planted with tomatoes. I have a yacon tuber that needs replanting so that we can keep growing this interesting plant that can be used to produce a sweet natural syrup but that I have never been able to harvest enough of to try it.
I have a hearty crop of Fartychokes (aka Jerusalem artichokes) that I love and that I am going to eat prolifically and damn the results! I can always blame Earl. There are spuds of all kinds in the soggy mud at the back of Sanctuary and the young berries have decided to repopulate the earth and we are hauling their rootley little tendrils out as we go. I might pot them up and use them for swapsies at plant and seed swaps.
I have the mother of all mangel-wurzel’s that I am loath to uproot but we are going to have to find a new place for it to sprawl as it is right in the flight path of a line of fridge wickers. Hopefully if we dig it up it will be happy in a new spot as I want to harvest the seeds from this magnificent beast. Mangel-wurzel’s are one of those veg that gives twice the bang for your buck. You get that magnificently ugly root as well as silverbeet like leaves that are delicious. They tend to be pest free and I think that they have a lot of value as a dual purpose crop. Anything that gives you more than one result is a bonus in my book. I actually got turmeric this year as well folks “SQUEE!” My pot experiments yielded a decent crop from a few tubers that I accumulated. I plan on repotting some of the results as they grew so well in big pots on the deck this year, and I also plan on planting out one of the small freezer compartments of one of the fridge wickers with some to see how they grow. I want to get hold of some lemon grass and some ginger as well to see if I can’t grow them here also.
Well to say “the best laid plans of mice and men…” would be an understatement at the moment folks. Serendipity Swamp has delivered a lot of challenges up until now (most of them easily fixed by the purchase of a decent pair of wellies) but we hit our very first, and most importantly, MAJOR snag in our fridge wicking process on Saturday. It has been wet around here. It has been VERY wet around here but we tend to not let it bother us and we soldier on regardless because the converse/flip side is that in about 5 months it is going to be dry here…VERY dry (you get the picture) so we are enjoying this respite from all things brown, crispy and arid while we can. We stoically lugged 6 of the 24 fridge wickers through the back gate and past the suspicious eyes of Earl-the-wonder-dog (who must be obeyed apparently but we keep forgetting that last bit…) who has the sneaking suspicion that we are attempting to erect barricades to prevent easy access to the cats on the front deck. After we had squelched and maneuvered the fourth fridge into the soggy area next to our summer ovens (bbq’s) we returned with the fifth to find Earl had insinuated himself in the space we had left between the fridges as if to say “leave me SOME room to zoom!” We acquiesced and he got his runway…
After we assembled the smallest of the fridge/freezer wickers (as they were going to have to be lugged all the way up the hill to the back of Sanctuary) in a motley collective inside the gate, we set about hauling them up to Sanctuary. Nothing is easy on Serendipity Farm and this endeavour didn’t buck the trend. In order to get fridge wickers into Sanctuary we have to negotiate a steep set of steps, wrangle the fridge carcasses through the small orchard of fruit trees that stoically refuse to give in to possum predation, then we had to find a way to lift the side of Sanctuary that we had nailed with extreme prejudice to anything that would take a nail in order to dissuade the same possums that feast on our stone fruit from also feasting on our veggies. We ended up with another motley collective of star pickets, sticks, and half of an old oar holding up the heavy (wet) ex fish farm netting so that we could haul the fridges under the side and then try not to slide down the slippery slope to ruin (ruin being the bottom of Sanctuary where the REAL mud lives) with the final objective of delivering 4 of the 6 fridge wickers to the top of Sanctuary whereby we could install them into their final resting place with the casual use of a few old bricks that Steve had assembled earlier (after taking a rush trip to the city to pick them up)
Sounds easy doesn’t it? Well they say a picture tells a thousand words. In the images we have shared are a few thousand words worth of pictures to explain why the process didn’t quite go to plan…
And so you see our predicament. Do we continue sinking in the mud and attempting to pack an endless supply of bricks under the rapidly disappearing fridge wickers or do we wait till the soil regains some semblance of solidity before we try again? After about 5 minutes of soul searching and a mutually inclusive game of “Paper, rock, scissors” where we tied, we both decided to decamp from the rain, the mud and our sodden bespattered wellies to the warm kitchen and to the promise of a hot beverage of our choice. Over our hot beverages (when we were talking to each other again. We don’t work well together at the best of times and this was NOT the best of times…) we casually discussed our options. Neither of us wanted to admit that we were a. both sure we wouldn’t be able to get our fridge wickers into Sanctuary in the allotted 2 week period that our TAFE calendar year gave us for holidays and that caused nature to laugh uproariously and suck on her trousers and b. we were both secretly VERY happy that we might get to stop squelching around in the mud and decamp to the nice dry, toasty warm house whereby we could read, play computer games, crochet and drink bottomless mugs of hot beverage and enjoy the rest of our holiday. “OH the shame!”
And thus you find me tapping away at 5.42am on Monday morning. We turned all of the upside down fridge wickers right side up to let the rain fall in them so that we can see if any of them leak as our concession to keeping moving with the processes. Our hearts might be (momentarily) heavy, but our feet are dry and as soon as the soil gains a semblance of solidity we will be back out there hauling fridges. Earl is happy with the two fridges that we left inside the house fence as he has something new to pee on and protect, Bezial could care less as he goes outside as little as possible at the moment. We have been promised a doozy of a cold front for the next few days so we have stocked up on chopped wood and have hunkered down for the duration. I am working on a few crochet projects and will be picking up my (virgin) Tunisian hooks in order to make my high school bestie Kym, a pair of these. Aren’t they tasty? It’s her birthday soon and she deserves a pair of these to wear under her office desk and pretend that she is actually wearing shoes. I also need to use my Tunisian hooks STAT as Steve gave them to me last year as part of my birthday gifts after I hinted most squeaky-wheely for months about “needing” some and if I don’t use them I will look like a most ungrateful git, my squeaky wheel technique will lose it’s power and I may not get a gift at all this year so its a win-win/SCORE moment as soon as I pick up those hooks for everyone methinks.
While we were doing our best not to sink into the quick-mud that our line of fridges generated at an alarming rate, I set about attempting to salvage a bit of dignity in the process. I decided to use the fact that I could actually “dig” our soil (in summer it’s rock hard. Think ceramic plate on steroids. Yeah. That hard…) and I harvested some yacon from our poor long suffering whitefly infested specimen, some oca, some turmeric (“squee!”) and about 10kg of spuds from the manure and oak leaf pile where I stuff any spuds that develop sprouts into. We buy our spuds in 10kg bags (spuds is Aussie for “potatoes” folks) and even though we go through them at an alarmingly quick rate, sometimes they do get to set sprouts and as much as I hate to not eat potatoes, I also don’t want to become ill from eating sprouty spuds so we tend to have an endless supply of potatoes thanks to our relatively frost free conditions. I know that there are lots more potatoes in the soil but that’s the best place for them till we want to eat them. I just realised that I have already talked about these veggies at the top of this blog post. I started the post on Thursday before we attempted to level the fridge wickers and as a. most of you don’t bother to read all of my posts, b. if you do, they are SO long you will have most probably forgotten what you have read at the top by this point and c. I am too lazy to throw away precious words in the name of not repeating myself (why spoil the habits of a lifetime?) so you are stuck with dual information for the duration of this post.
By the way, if anyone is at all interested, I have long lusted after those lalylala doll patterns that have insinuated themselves at the top of the dolly food chain (type it in a Google search, you know you want to 😉 ). They look like glorified Telly Tubbies and I love the shape of them. Nothing “super-model” about lalylala dolls! I lust after them but I can’t justify paying for one of the patterns so I headed off (as I do) and went looking for a knock-off. Much like Chinese knock-offs, you can find some very good and some very BAD examples of “knock-off” so you really have to do a fair bit of homework to arrive at the end product you desire. After a few months of casual rootling around (Pinterest I love you) I suddenly produced the magic combination of “right place, right time, right query, right result” that eventuated in me finding this excellent blog and this very clever crafty lady whose dolls do a sterling impersonation of lalylala dolls. SO sterling in fact that she had to remove 2 of her patterns because the lalylala lady made some Germanic threats. I figure the German lalylala lady pinched the idea from the Telly Tubbies anyway and is quite lucky that the creators of Telly Tubbies don’t come hunting for a “cease and desist” notice in her direction but such is life and we still have the basic patterns that are easy to customise to make our own FREE lalylala knock offs. There are a few patterns on the site but I used this one to make my “whatevertheheckitis” doll that I will be giving away as soon as I make as I love the process but rarely have any use, myself, for the results of what I crochet.
And so we take a brief hiatus in the fridge wicking posts for the moment. As soon as we have more to share about what we are doing we will. Until then, I will share what I am reading, hooking, baking and doing and hopefully that will keep you all amused until then. Before I go, check out this most scrumptious blog post from a fellow Aussie blogger in Queensland. Her property could be the sister property for ours and so she knows how difficult it is to do anything at all with what is available on site. Every time I read one of her blog posts, I move a teensy bit closer to attempting to make a pair of socks…Catch you soon.