Monday, May 10, 2010

Chapter 12: Greenhouses, Recipes and Exploding Butterflies.

Chapter 12: Greenhouses, Recipes and Exploding Butterflies.

It was a sweltering 43 degrees here today and as the sweaty stench of newly laid cow manure permeated our t-shirts, there in the palpable humidity, time seemingly stood still as Jo and I shared a blissful moment of gardening satisfaction. We were standing inside our brand new greenhouse. Out there, beyond our plastic see through veneer, in the real world it was a mild 22 degrees and although it was tempting to savor the moment inside the greenhouse, if we had stayed in any longer, we risked fainting and collapsing in cow manure. It was hard to make out the expressions on our neighbours faces through the foggy poo condensation on the plastic walls but we are fairly certain they were looks of pure jealousy. That's right, we have a greenhouse and now we can grow tomatoes all year round.

A few weeks ago we took a trip to Bunnings and bought some lengths of pine and a roll of heavy-duty plastic for about $50. We have spent the last couple of weekends sawing and nailing the frame together, finishing with a lick of paint and attaching the plastic sheeting. We designed it so that the roof is detachable and can be rotated to allow for ventilation on warmer days and we left a sheet of the plastic detached from the sides for a door. It is tall enough to stand in and the base is 1m squared. The greenhouse is easily moved to where it is needed and currently we have it on top of one of our veggie patches in the front yard.
 After digging in two new bags of manure and mulch today we will let the bed lie for a week or two before planting tomatoes and basil as a test run.

Drying Rack
We have also been busy building a drying rack to dry flowers and fruits from the garden for preserving and storing. The idea was inspired when we stumbled across some recipes for making wine from flowers. You may remember that we were planning on making elderflower champagne, however, after a little research, we found that elderflowers actually grow on enormous trees, so we searched for alternatives. We came across several other recipes for making wines from flowers including hibiscus. As we have two hibiscus bushes in full bloom at the moment, we've been drying as many flowers as we can.

Flower wines
The recipe requires around 60 grams of dried hibiscus flowers to make about 4 bottles of wine. Rather than letting them simply shrivel in the sun, we decided to do the right thing and turn them into something everyone can enjoy... wine. There are plenty of other flowers that can be used for wine making, including sunflowers, lavender, marigolds, pansies, orange blossoms, daisies and many many more. Its also a novel way to make your own blends of unique teas for your next tea party. The wine takes at least 6-12 months to mature in the bottle.

Here is a pic of our drying rack suspended in the shade of our carport to maximise air flow. It is basically two frames with fly screen strtched over top and bottom and hinges to allow it to open.

Butterflies & Possums attack
But dear readers, not all has been rosey in the garden.

Picture this:

You wake up to a beautiful Autumn Saturday morning, sipping on your coffee in your bath robe and slippers as you draw back the blinds to let in the streams of morning sunlight. All seems can even forget about those oddballs across the street with vege gardens and that bloody new greenhouse. Not to mention that smell...what the hell is that smell? Surely they don't own a cow?!

And then you see him.

Tiptoeing pensively, staring upwards at the sky again,  holding that squash racquet above his head. "Darling, quick, it's our oddball neighbour again...the one with the greenhouse...he's swinging at the air with that racquet again and running all over his front yard...oh wait his wife has come out now, and she has a racquet too... what the hell are they doing?! Dont ever speak to them again!!!"

At least that's what we imagine our neighbours must say about Joe's new hobby. Lately, we have been inundated with a plague of white cabbage butterflies. The Green grub lavae have devoured all of our Pak-choy, swedes, and brussel sprouts, leading us to wage war on them. We struck upon the idea of swatting butterflies with tennis racquets as a arguably humane and organic alternative to pesticides... but more importantly, its so much fun. The only problem is that while we are having a great time swatting little butterflies, and cheering as they explode in delicate puffs of white, our neighbours across the way don't see them, only us, swinging racquets at thin air.
It was initially hard to pluck up the courage to swat openly infront of prying neighbours, but we figured that if you can stop for council pick up, you can shamlessly swat butterflies in your front yard too!

The little buggers have really made a mess of things, and set us back in our produce plans. We have also been waging an offensive on the ground, hand picking the grubs off what is left of our greens, and spraying them with garlic, chilli and soap spray.  We will aslo trial a vegetable oil spray, and let you know how it goes.

To add insult to injury, the local possums have either sat on or devoured all of the foliage from our new avocado tree, countless beans and the potatoes that were growing oh so well in potato bags. The potato leaves are supposedly poisonous, but this does not seem to deter them, we can only hope that it has given them a bad bout of gas. As a result, we will have to net our potato crop and start again.

Our potato plants a few  weeks ago before the possum attack......................and our potato plants now.

At this time of year the possums are extra hungry with the onset of winter. They will eat everything. Last year they ate every leaf off our chilli bush, and then the chillies, basil, lettuce, and anything that wasn't netted. In Spring, you can get away with planting a few things in the open. Winter is a different story.

Whats on the menu?
Something else that our obese possums may be interested in is some of our garden recipe ideas for our FFFC week. Jo and I have set about planning possible menu items that could be prepared using only garden produce and our extra items (flour, oil, coffee and milk).

Here are some of our favourite menu munchables.

for entrees:
Lets start with chilled potato and leek soup.
Sweet potato wedges with citrus and chilli marmalade.
Escargo, sauteed in parsley garlic and home made champagne. (See online poll).

for mains:
Gnocchi with roasted baby beetroots and basil pesto.
Home grown mezze platter; grilled capsicum and zuchinni, hommus, flat bread, fallafel, and dolmades made with vine leaves and bean stuffing.
Spicey Lentil burgers with cool mint and sliced cucumber.
Home made pasta with cherry tomatoes, basil and chilli.
Poached eggs with roast tomatoes, rocket and herbed flat bread.

and for desserts:
Macadamia and blackberry tarts, served with homemade lavender icecream.
Sweet pumpkin pie.
Lemon sorbet & Mulberry crepes.


Let's not forget a fine selection of home made mulberry wine, beers, flower champagnes, teas and Aldi's Brazilia coffee.

LLLLLLLivin' the high life.

Next week, we are going to talk about the theories behind Moon planting and our first attempt at making citrus jams from our grapefruits, oranges, and lemons. Also we will be preserving some of our summer herbs before the frosts, or possums, get them first.

N and G dressed up as scarecrows one morning to do their bit for keeping white butterflies out of the garden. N even put vegemite on his nose!??? A scarecrow tactic supposedly.

Lastly, dont forget to vote in our poll. In short, should Joe capture and prepare some of our healthy garden snails to trial a swish escargot dish? The verdict now lies in your hands. I won't be eating them though...

                 P.s. thanks to those of you who have given us feedback this week. Our highly coveted honorable reader of the week award, for starting not one, but four veggie gardens and an orchard, goes to Hayley! Hide your avocado tree from the natives, lest it suffers a simlar fate.

 cheerio gang.