The title of this week’s blog is a nod to Steven King’s truly frightening short story written way back in 1978. The story revolved around a demon haunted town in the corn belt of the US. The demon in that town decreed that no one in that area should live past their 19th birthday and all of the children in that town ruthlessly assisted in the enforcement of that decree. In that imaginary town a person who was 19 years and 1 day old would possibly be facing some immediate and reasonable fears for their personal safety!
So, what could all that possibly have to do with a small farm Down Under? Have I decided to chuck all caution to the wind and grow only corn here and enforce rules which could only ever quickly lead to my own untimely demise (being well past 19 years old)? Perhaps someone has been messing with the local malevolent spirits? Well, not really (and hopefully not anyway).
The truth of the matter is that I have simply run out of established space with which to grow edibles. To get around that problem, I have had to remove perfectly healthy and edible plants so that I can get the next round of crops growing in their place. Somehow, I’ve become like the demon in the short story as I’m cutting down vegetables in their prime.
|Salad greens awaiting their awful fate|
If I don’t get the next crop of salad greens in the ground shortly, then during high summer – which is not that far away – there will be no salad greens for me to eat. The reason for this is that it is very difficult to establish new crops in high summer due to the extreme heat and sunlight both of which kill seedlings. That was my fate from only a few short years ago to learn this harsh lesson. A shade house would be very handy in these circumstances, but I don’t have one – at present, anyway.
As I also collect seed from the plants here, it becomes a delicate balance between: having crops ready to eat, leaving some crops to go to seed and getting in new crops for future food. It is a really complex problem to solve especially if planting space is limited.
Throw in a couple of unknown variables such as climate and predation by the local wildlife and that problem becomes even more difficult to solve.
For example, Stumpy the house wallaby may just decide – without warning – that the Australian yellow leaf lettuce he’d had his eye on, suddenly becomes the next big taste sensation. The next morning you may possibly awaken to find a healthy and very well fed wallaby sitting in the vegetable garden happily munching on that lettuce. Whilst this would be bad enough if you had intended to eat the lettuce in your lunch, it could possibly be disastrous if you were planning to save seed from those plants!
Climate is the other unknown variable as for example: local lore handed down from time immemorial says to get your tomatoes outside of the house and in the ground by Melbourne Cup day (the first Tuesday in November). Well, this year was a warm October, so I probably could have had them outside in the sun by mid-October. It was interesting too that this year I spotted a self-seeded tomato plant in mid-October which was a few weeks before I’d even planted the tomatoes outside.
|Tomatoes Cherokee Cherries|
The photo above shows the cherry tomato plants happily growing in the warm conditions here. This is their second year as last year I selected seed from a particular plant which fruited a full month earlier than all other varieties. That plant also produced a good sized and good tasting crop too. All being well, the fruit should commence ripening from about mid-February and will continue to ripen until early June.
Many years ago, I wouldn’t have had the heart to clear the growing beds for the next crop as I was just so grateful that anything at all was growing. However, now it’s more like: “we’re done here – prepare yourselves to become chook food!” How things have changed these past few years.
|shed with all posts now in the ground|
Construction on the new shed has continued apace, and now all of the posts are cemented into the ground. The next activity – all being well – will be installing the roof trusses, battens and bracing. I’m really excited about this shed but it is also becoming necessary for me to complete the construction before the serious bushfire weather hits here during summer.
The concrete stairs below the cantina shed are now complete! I thought that the photo below might be useful for anyone who may be considering constructing their own concrete steps as it shows the timber formwork in place and ready to receive the cement mix. The yellow level stick gives a good indicator as to whether the stairs are constructed level front to back and also side to side. If the timber is not exactly level, it can easily be propped up on one edge or another before pouring the cement mix. Observant readers may notice the white pipe and this is covering a much smaller ¾ inch (20mm) water pipe that travels underneath the stairs. Should that water pipe ever break or leak, I should be able to pull a new water pipe through that much larger white pipe – without damaging the stairs.
|Last stair step under construction|
|Stairs now completed|
It is a great time for flowers here and it seems as if every plant is trying to out compete its neighbour. I’d thought I’d include some photos from about the farm:
There are only a few Ixia flowers about the place, but they are really noticeable because they have an eye catching light blue colour for their flowers. You rarely see that particular colour in nature.
|a big furry unidentified flower hiding amongst the garlic and onions|
|bearded iris, lambs ears, Californian poppy, wormwood, geranium, aluminium plant and borage|
|Skink sunning itself under an African daisy|
The fruit is also continuing to ripen on the trees too:
The peaches and nectarines are interesting, because in the humid spring climate here, they consistently develop curly leaf which is a fungal disease. It is recommended to spray copper fungicide on the trees at various stages throughout the year. However, a few years ago, I undertook an experiment to see what would happen if I simply stopped spraying the peach and nectarine trees. My reasoning behind this is that not only does the copper spray cost money and time to apply to the fruit trees, but it will also kill fungal growths in the soil (both beneficial and non-beneficial) as it drips off the fruit trees leaves. The results have been mixed, but I can say with certainty that about half of these fruit trees survived and have since become more productive and less affected by the curly leaf, whilst others died. However, I do not regret undertaking the experiment as I have seen quite old peach and nectarine trees that receive no attention at all and yet still produce fruit.
In a strange and unusual turn of events on Sunday evening I spotted a rabbit running up the driveway. It is unusual because it is the first rabbit that I have seen here in eight years. I set one of the dogs on the trail of the rabbit but it had clearly left the farm. However, past experience has taught me that it is unwise to completely ignore strange and unusual events.
This week has been quite warm for this time of year and by Saturday evening I was feeling the beginning stages of heat exhaustion after working outside in the sun all day. Today has been much cooler and the temperature outside here at about 9.45pm is 8.0 degrees Celsius (46.4’F). So far this year there has been 676.8mm (26.6 inches) of rainfall which is up from last week’s total of 676.4mm (26.6 inches).