Sunday, October 23, 2011

Worms and Wasabi

There are a number of milestones that our 15month old daughter has achieved recently, such as the ability to eat an entire apple down to it's core with only 4 teeth; say the words "happy" and "thank you", hide dads wallet in obscure locations and scream at a decibel that Joe believes has caused him permanent loss of hearing.  Apart from her ability to dump any valuable item into the toilet without making a splash sound, her other incredible skill which makes us incredibly proud revolves around the simple broad bean. I challenge you to find another 15 month old on this planet who can stealthily slip out the front door, crawl down the front stairs and into the broad bean patch, then pick, shell and devour our beloved broad beans at a disturbingly ravenous rate. We are so proud! If only she could learn to walk....

But I guess, on a more serious note, it is something that we really are proud of, that to our kids, eating from the garden is a normal thing to do. We can send our 3 year old to fetch any number of herbs, as she already knows her basil from her rosemary, and sage from parsley. Our 5 year old gets excited at the prospect of pollinating pumpkins, and understands which broad beans to leave for seed saving on account of their healthy growth and high yields. Kids learn at an incredible rate.

Speaking of children, thank goodness the school holidays are over! Joe has a theory that the wild September breezes have nothing to do with global warming and are in fact caused by the universal sigh of relief from parents all around the world, when their children finally go back to school. Despite the relentless rain during the school holidays we did manage a little fun with a backyard camping session complete with tent, camp-fire with scary storey, marshmallows and two-minute noodles. It was quote - unquote "the best time of my life" , according to our 5 year old son who stoically stayed solo in the tent until brought in by Dad at 9 pm.

A few days later, Joe and N set off on N's first real hike and camp through the Megalong Valley and camping at the Cox's river overnight. It was an initiation. As a 5 and 1/2 year old N had to carry his own backpack, water and distress beacon (which Mum insisted be collected from the local police station). Before arriving at the camp site N had to cross the suspension bridge that spanned the river, if he made it to the other side alive, he was allowed to light the camp-fire.

Casting all rational expectations of a 5 and 1/2 year old aside Dad gave him a manly slap on the back and said "I'll see you on the other side". That night after N had lit his very first camp fire, and had talked in depth about his new found fear of heights to Dad,  he exclaimed in a moment of campfire serenity, quote, unquote "this is the best time of my life"! Only at the age of 5 can you have the 'best time of your life' twice in one week.

happy camper

Egg Eaters Anonymous:

Each morning Henrietta, Billy Holiday, Thelma, Louise, Noella and Georgie (our chickens) enjoy a very balanced breakfast of porridge, silverbeet, left-overs, nasturtiums, pellets and fresh water. In addition we dig up the soil in their coup to expose the hundreds of worms (great for protein) which happily take residence in the now very rich soil. We also let them out most afternoons for an hour or so to scratch around the garden, eat grass seed, bugs and small pebbles (to help with digestion).

chooky breakfast

Despite this wonderful life style and gourmet meals, there seems to be something missing in their lives. Lately, we were shocked to realise that one (or maybe more) of our hens has taken to the shameful and disturbing vice of egg eating.

It seems, from all accounts, egg eating is a heinous disorder from which no hen in living history has ever been corrected, and the only cure for such a fowl act is...the guillotine! the prospect of chopping a chook was daunting, and after some research, we stumbled on an old and less fatal way to correct this behaviour. Step one was to blow out the yolk and white, leaving the shell intact, then refill the egg with ... wasabi. The egg would then be left for the hen to eat it and learn a very nasty lesson indeed! It seemed like a  devilishly good idea, so we put it to the test.

Slinking into the pen with our wasabi laden egg and casually placing it in the middle of the pen, we stood back and watched with giddy anticipation. This will show them, we thought, those deborturous chickens. A little fire and brimstone to set them on the clucky path of righteous non-egg eating. Beedy eyed, they flocked in a sudden frenzy and descended on the egg, tearing it to bits in an instant... then.... nothing.... absolutely nothing... anyone would have thought they liked it! I was devastated.

Later that night, jo and I discussed the options. It was agreed that one of our ladies must learn the way of the Samurai, and get the chop! If anyone has any other alternative, we would be happy to hear it, time is ticking.

'Crap' soil
On a more positive chicken note, we have been using the chickens to help out with reconditioning the soil in our front yard one square metre at a time, by swapping the soil from their chook pen for the clay in our front yard. The chooks make light work of digging around the new clay and mixing it with the rich soil in their pen. As they have been in the same spot for a couple of years, the soil is super rich and packed with worms, which also do their bit to improve the soil.
diggin up some worms for the ladies

Speaking of worms, our worm farm has been great for our spring garden. We use the worm wee as a natural fertilizer on many of our plants, and the worm castings (mixed with sand) make a rich soil for seedlings. All they need in return is some damp newspaper, vegetable scraps and the occasional heap of weeds.

Apart from our bumper crop of broad beans our two potato beds are raging and our tomatoes, crooked neck zucchinis and pumpkins are all off to a flying start. We are also enjoying the first strawberries and mulberries of the season, with a promising amount of blackberries and loganberries on the way too. We have been eating loads of silverbeet, parsley, rocket, rosemary and good ol nasturtiums in salads too.

first strawberries of the season
Our quality control team leap into action

our first crop of Romanesco Broccoli

With only 28 days to go before our first Crop & Swap we are beginning to see more realistically what we will have for the first swap; plenty of eggs, parsley, broad beans, silverbeet, mulberries, macadamia nuts, nasturtiums, chamomile and some home-baked breads. We have had more neighbours and potential crop & swappers stop for chats and email us, everyone sounds as though they are bringing along some great produce.
painting our Crop & Swap sign