After sending home the last of their volunteers for the winter, Sue gives us the lowdown on what lies ahead for Foxglove Farm, as they brace for a period of maintenance and marvel at some impressive potatoes.
We have had the last of our volunteers for the year as it is getting too difficult to keep them warm. Not that it has been so cold but we have had our days- even a bit of frost which we don’t normally get here.
We worked on clearing our driveway which is about 400m long. It gave us a large compost heap and a lot of grass for the chicken tractor. We managed to fill some of the really bad patches of driveway with stones and the volunteers fixed some laths to the gate to complete a revamp thereof.
We removed a HUGE number of wattles along the road- the small ones will be more paths and the large ones will be future firewood or fenceposts.
We did manage to plant out a large amount of various brassicas- the Sicilian violet cauliflower will be the only seed I will keep and the balance will be veggies for sale and preserving.
I saw a problem with my garlic today- rust! It’s not too bad yet but left untreated will put paid to a good quantity of Egyptian Pink garlic plants. I think the problem stems from my not watering enough and since we haven’t had the rain we had last year so far, the rust takes hold easily.
Doesn’t sound right, does it? Ok so it’s my theory. To my mind, my soil preparation must not have been good enough and coupled with too little water, it has made for weak plants open to attack from this pest. To solve it, I will lightly dust with wood ash and then feed the soil with manure and comfrey tea. To follow, I’ll apply a thick layer of mulch and make sure I keep watering enough. After that, I will sit back and wait 2 weeks to see if I have it licked. If not, it’s drastic measures- Bio-neem oil spray!
I don’t like to mess with nature too much and really, the only outside help I have used has been BioGrow’s organic snail bait but I won’t lose this garlic crop to rust. Interestingly and to support my theory, another bed of much larger garlic plants put in the ground at the same time, only have a few spots.
Prize potatoes grow from grocery waste
Even with the cold, my seed potatoes are all sprouting- all 5 varieties. I thought for sure they would all sleep through winter. Better get working on the soil for those too. My best crop of potatoes came from a compost heap. They were the size of my forearm (about 17cms each potato!) and had probably 8 spuds per plant. They were delicious in every way we ate them. And to top it, the seed potatoes were just those that grew from leftovers bought from a local supermarket chain. I have no doubt that it was the huge amount of nutrition in the compost that produced such fine spuds. By the way, when you plant 1 potato, you should get 8-10 back from each plant. Or put another way, 1kg produces 10kgs. Get yours ready for spring and have the best chips/salads/mash/wedges you have ever eaten, by summer.
Not everything runs smoothly on a farm (ha bloody ha!) and we have re-homed our little rescue dog. Thank goodness a quick and easy move and he is apparently very happy in his new home. He was a bit of a weasel in that he seemed to know when we would be gone for a whole day and decide that day to kill at least 1 hen. We even kept them locked up so they could not be eaten, but this last time, a suicidal hen managed to fly out of the yard. We tried everything- even tying the carcass around his neck twice but somehow he managed to eat it off his own neck, not leaving a scrap behind. Most distressing to find a dead family member on your doorstep after a nice Christmas lunch or where ever we had been. It was his fourth and final time.
We are down to 8 hens and the 8 chicks, who are growing nicely. I still don’t know how to tell their gender yet so will just have to wait and see. I can already see a bit of their characters forming- there is a bully, a whiner (also the stupid one) and a brave one. In there must be our next rooster. Speaking of roosters, the only hen from my original flock (around 2 years old) had stopped laying completely after we got a rooster. She is once again laying extra-large eggs 5 days out of 7. She is top dog in the flock and the other ladies seem to follow her example. Our egg count is getting back up again after all the broodiness (4 yesterday and 3 today), even with the cold weather. Lucky us- some eggs in winter! Will mean some great steamed pudding and custard to go with all the jams I still have to make.
I finally got the lime marmalade done and it turned out ok. Next will be gooseberry jam, fig jam and lemon curd- all small batches. The biggest job will be the grape jelly as I have a freezer full of grapes.
Did I tell you about the hot carob drink we have been making at night? Our carob trees produced around 50kgs of pods this season. Since everything likes the sweet pods, we harvested the almost-dried pods, washed and put them in the freezer. Another whole freezer full! We have been cracking them, removing the seeds and roasting a batch every time the oven is on for bread. Then as we need, I grind a handful in the coffee grinder into a fine powder. Warm milk and a little honey and you have the most wonderful caffeine-free bedtime drink. I’ll bet almond milk would make this even better! And cheers to keeping warm.
Organic farmer Sue regularly writes for us on farm activities and challenges.