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The dreaded condition known as “Man Flu” struck the human male resident of Fernglade Farm this week. The editor merely had a cold. Man Flu is defined as: “a cold or similar minor ailment as experienced by a man who is regarded as exaggerating the severity of the symptoms.”
Both the editor and I were sick for most of this week. It was an awful week because coughs, sneezes, and mucus were everywhere. Of course as the editor is of the female of the species, she deftly avoided the worst symptoms of the dread condition of Man Flu. Strong claims were made in the household that the female of the species is tougher than their male counterparts, and unfortunately I totally let down “Team Bloke” in that regard because I can’t deny that I have been a bit whingey. Team Bloke will have to work harder next time to make up for my recent poor performance, I guess, when ultimately another member of that team comes down with the dread condition of Man Flu. But it was a really bad cold! Sorry, that is merely another poor performance on my part for Team Bloke… Ladies, please spare a moment’s thought for the poor editor this week.
Bad colds aside (I did say that it was a really really bad cold!), I discovered a little secret cure-all from the garden when a person has been afflicted with the dread condition of Man Flu: Green and Red mustard leaves. Seriously!
We grow a huge quantity of mustard plants every year. The seeds for those mustard plants are collected at the end of each season for replanting the following season and we have done that process for many years now. The mustard plants are grown because they produce huge quantities of edible leafy green matter from autumn right through until about early summer. And we add those leaves to all manner of food. It is not just the humans that enjoy the mustard leaves, as even Toothy the long haired dachshund will happily graze on fresh mustard leaves.
However, by about this time of the year, the mustard leaves gain an epic heat quality and they will make your eyes water and induce a sense of pain in your brain (I describe that sensation by the technical term: “Brain Pain”). Horseradish, wasabi, and chilli all produce a similar sensation to brain pain. In previous years I have removed the mustard plants and fed them to the chickens because the mustard becomes so hot that it is painful to eat. Incidentally, chickens love the mustard leaves hot or not, and one can only deduce that they don’t seem to suffer from brain pain (edit: they have small heads and perhaps small brains too). Once the mustard plants are removed, I replant the clear raised garden beds with seeds which will produce younger and thus less hot mustard plants.
This year, we have been a bit busy and have neglected to remove the mustard plants. The chickens are a bit angry about this neglect, but they still enjoy plenty of fresh greens all the same. So, whilst I was suffering horribly from my debilitating cold (have I mentioned previously how horrible the cold was?) err, sorry, Man Flu, I snacked upon some green mustard leaves. My brain almost exploded from the epic heat of those mustard leaves. I had a brief vision of myself as existing in a scene from that horrific 1981 Canadian sci-fi horror film, Scanners, where for some strange reason a small group of evil people wanted to make other people’s heads explode and something, something, world domination. Making other people's heads explode doesn’t sound like a very nice thing to want to do? Anyway, dodgy Canadian sci-fi horror films aside, after the dust settled down in my brain, the resulting explosion had cleared both my sinuses and my headache. And they stayed clear for about half an hour afterwards. Needless to say, that this week I have consumed an epic amount of mustard leaves!
The only real problem became that once the symptoms of the dread condition of Man Flu eased off, I was unable to continue whingeing. This was much to the relief of the long suffering editor who to be fair was also sick this week with a minor cold, obviously it wasn’t the same as the Man Flu!
We grow mustard leaves in really close proximity and from autumn until about early summer the plants grow happily without any pests or diseases. Pest control is usually handled by the hard working Fairy Wrens and Red Breasted Robins that spend all day bouncing through the vegetable beds and garden beds consuming anything and everything that moves.
|One of the many raised garden beds full of mustard plants here|
Observant readers will note that in that raised garden bed there are: red mustard; green mustard; annual rocket; and a couple of types of lettuces.
|Another of the raised garden beds with predominantly green mustard|
The above photo shows another raised garden bed with predominantly green mustard. Now it is worth mentioning that green mustard is the hottest of the mustard plants. When I mean hot, I mean jalapeño style hot! The green mustard leaves may totally blow your mind Scanners style! The original green mustard plant was a chance gift from a local bloke who had been growing them in the area for over thirty years. It was a truly great gift.
The unfortunate thing about using the mustard leaves to gain a temporary recovery from the dread condition of Man Flu, was that I could no longer claim the benefits of Man Flu which include the awesome skill of skiving off work. Alas, work was soon calling…
Work involved laying another cubic metre (1.3 cubic yards) of composted woody mulch onto the new blackberry and strawberry plant enclosure. Over the next two years, that composted woody mulch will slowly turn into the most beautiful rich black sandy loam. And you can grow anything in that rich black loamy stuff.
|Another cubic metre (1.3 cubic yards) of composted woody mulch was placed in the new strawberry enclosure|
The blackberry canes will hopefully be planted over the next week or so in that area in the above photo in rows of rich compost which is yet to be laid down. Before the blackberry canes can be planted I have to consider the wallabies that if given the chance would happily eat all of them.
|A wallaby enjoys the rich pickings at Fernglade Farm whilst I am monitoring the chickens in the orchard|
And given that I had temporary relief from the dread condition of Man Flu, I was able to construct a steel (wallaby proof) gate using various chunks of scrap steel that I had to hand. Have I mentioned before how much I love my welder for metalwork? The welder was a gift from a neighbour and the device is clearly about forty years old, but it is the total biz and I must have the only solar powered welding service on the continent! The gate has now been painted with a coat of quality black metal paint and is waiting to be installed.
|A wallaby proof steel gate was constructed this week using scrap metal which I had to hand|
Skiving off work sounds nice, but unfortunately now that I had a steel gate ready to be installed I realised that there was no gate post to hang the new steel gate from. After a few mustard leaves, I was fortified to face the task of installing the gate post for the new wallaby proof blackberry enclosure. Whilst I was at it and feeling fighting fit (at least until the symptoms of the Man Flu returned) I also lined the pathway to that blackberry enclosure with a local rock quarried nearby which contains lots of lime. The local rock provides an all-weather, and yet permeable non slip surface. Plus, I hate mud, mustard leaves or not!
|A gate post was installed for the blackberry enclosure and the pathway to the enclosure was lined with a local crushed rock containing good quantities of lime|
Discovering the relief from the dread condition of Man Flu that the mustard leaves provided meant that I had enough energy – in between bouts of occasional whingeing – that I was also able to construct another concrete step on the new concrete staircase leading up to the new blackberry and strawberry enclosures.
|Another concrete step on the staircase leading up to the new blackberry and strawberry enclosures was constructed today|
The editor has begun painting coats of Tung Oil on the new cabinet which has recently been sanded to remove the walnut stain so as to reveal the natural timber colour. This is an important cabinet as it will be used to hide the multitude of fermenting products from the curious – but also unusually judgemental – eyes of visitors.
|The third coat of Tung Oil was applied to the new cabinet which will hold the many fermenting products out of sight of visitors|
Observant readers will note that the previous owners (or manufacturer), not only had the poor taste to stain the unit a walnut colour, but they also managed to use a router to gouge square grooves on the front of each cabinet draw front. These were a nightmare to sand. After a brief discussion, we arrived at the idea of using a small 12V electric rotating grinding stone to remove the stain from those grooves.
Before too long, the stain was removed from the grooves on the draw fronts. However, the process was not without hassles (or whingeing and surprisingly not from me this time) because the electric cord to this device over heated and melted and the device blew the fuse.
|The small 12V electric rotating grinding stone original cable melted (black cable) and the device blew the nearest fuse|
As you can see, I opened up the small device which was in otherwise good condition and replaced the original (black) and now melted under-rated electric cord with a more substantial cord (red and black) which will be unlikely to over-heat and melt in the future. I am sometimes gobsmacked by the sheer number of repairs to both small and large appliances that I am forced to do because so many of the original components are inadequate for the day to day purposes of the appliance.
Oh, we started a Swiss Brown mushroom kit this week too.
|We started a Swiss Brown mushroom kit this week|
The fruit trees are slowly breaking their winter dormancy and the almonds and the apricots have already produced blossoms. This week however, the plums have started to break their dormancy and produce blossoms.
|The plums are breaking their winter dormancy this week|
The bulbs have been multiplying over the past few years and they seem to love wet feet but with full sun. And there are plenty of bunches of daffodils now dotted about the farm.
|There are now plenty of daffodil bunches dotted about the farm|
Some of the more unusual bulbs are producing flowers now too and the grape hyacinth is a stunner and has a beautiful scent.
|The grape hyacinth is a stunner|
The hellebores are also continuing to produce flowers and I am seeing white, pink, and green flowers in the garden this week.
|A white / pink hellebore produced flowers this week|
At this time of year, the succulents can be some of the showiest of all flowers and the bees have been very happy with this plant.
|A succulent produces a showy display of flowers this week|
Last autumn, I decided to prune the gooseberry, red currant, and black currant shrubs because they were overgrowing the paths. At the time I decided rather than using the cuttings as compost feed, I would plant the cuttings into the ground. And then I forgot about those cuttings. To my absolute mustard fuelled astonishment, this week, the majority of those cuttings took and are now producing new plants and there are now dozens of them all over the place. Why would anyone buy these plants? Well perhaps having the dread condition of Man Flu might be an acceptable excuse!
|One of the dozens of cuttings of gooseberry, red currant, and black currant beginning to form new plants|