We enjoyed a sunny day in the southern hemisphere today – a first in what seems like many months. It was a day when I was able to get out into the garden and start to think about my summer produce garden. I intend to get my chooks to do most of the work – lazy or not? I’ll let you decide.
Chooks love to forage and scratch around in the dirt. In their natural bush environment they do this to find tasty morsels of protein in the form of bugs, worms and other little soil dwelling critters. They also peck and sample tasty morsels of weeds as they go. Along with the scratching they are very efficient at clearing up a garden bed in preparation for the next crop.
We are in the middle of moving to our rural property and with this comes cleaning up the garden beds that I have used in our rental property to return them to what they were when we arrived (which was pretty bare and unproductive, actually). So while the weather was warm today I gave the chooks a practice run and set them up in what was my pumpkin bed last summer to scratch it over, provide some fertiliser and generally clean the area up.
Now admittedly I could have got the hoe out and dug over the weeds and scratched the soil around, but the sound of the chooks clucking around out there happily in the sunshine and the fact that I can get on and do other things in the meantime is a great incentive to let them do what they do best.
Now that they have had a good practice, not that they really needed it, I can start to think about getting them to clear the new beds at the farm and start to think about what I might plant in my summer beds. I think the 10 most useful summer vegetables will definitely be on my list, but I might try my hand at a few other things too … I definitely need to revive my herb beds and some cucumbers and eggplants will be on the agenda too.
But first I need to work towards the chooks’ happiness and give them some foraging time on the untouched earth of our farm which will form the basis of our summer food production this year. Then I can get on and do some other things while they are busy doing what they love to do.
What will you be planting in your summer garden this year?
Before we bought our property one of the goals we set ourselves was to have an orchard with 100 trees – a nice round number selected for no other reason than we thought that would be enough to sustain us and provide plenty of fruit and nuts to share, barter, exchange and sell in the future. This was based on no more than selection of a round number! But it does sound nice to say we have a one hundred tree orchard.
Well we don’t have a one hundred tree orchard – yet. We have started selecting and planting trees of fruits that we like. I can’t see any point growing anything I won’t eat, except if it has a value to other people that I can exchange or barter with, or if it provides some other value to the orchard, the environment, the wildlife or livestock.
So far we have planted 28 trees – a good start to our future food security. We have put in several different varieties of apples, some which just can’t be bought in shops like Gravenstein and Summer Strawberry and others which are just plain better eaten fresh from the tree like Fuji, JohnoGold , Pink Lady and Granny Smith. We have selected heritage peaches, pears, nectarines, plums, cherries and a white fig.
Sounds like we will have plenty of fruit – and yet there are still many others we think we want:
- citrus like oranges, mandarins, lemons and limes
- apricot trees (yes that’s plural who doesn’t love homemade apricot jam or dried apricots?)
- at least one feijoa (great eating straight from the tree while out working in the orchard)
- cashews (not sure if they grow in our climate or not, but worth at least investigating)
- a banana palm
- avocado – at least two varieties
We were fortunate enough to be given 10 trees by a relative so this has boosted our orchard numbers significantly and I am still trying to comprehend the size of this gift. While they just look like small sticks in pots at the moment, we hope they will someday be large, fruit bearing trees which will feed us for many years to come – that is not a gift someone gives you every day!
And so it’s back to the catalogues to decide what to purchase next and what to consider for next year as well, and while we don’t have the harvest yet we will enjoy the promise of fresh, juicy summer fruits while we plan the next phase. What would you plant in a 100 tree orchard?
The third permaculture principle is all about getting something in return for the energy and efforts you put into your endeavours. Which ever way you look at it, obtaining a yield is vital for ensuring the ongoing sustainability of anything we do. Take a look at the Permaculture Principles page for more ideas on how you can do that.
A few weeks ago I wrote about trying to work out if our sheep were in fact pregnant, or not. My father in law used to be a stud master, so we asked his advice. He said the best way to know for sure if they were pregnant was when they produced a lamb! Funny comment, but not very helpful to a sheep farmer who is clearly still learning! I guess what he was saying was two-fold: be patient – not my strong point, and even an experienced (now retired) stud manager could get it wrong if he tried to second guess nature.
And so we waited. And every time we arrived at the farm I would peer down the paddock, take a quick head count and report to my beloved “7”. Six ewes and a ram equals 7.
And we waited. And when we stay over night in the caravan that we have on site I would go for a walk in the morning and do another head count. 7. Clearly this has been going on for many weeks. Perhaps even 7 weeks.
Today my wait was rewarded! Two of our ewes gave birth today and each produced twins!
It was absolutely delightful to arrive at the farm about two hours after the second pair were born, still wobbly on their legs, following mum around, looking for food, still being cleaned up by the mother following the birth.
The other sheep from the flock eventually went near the new lambs and had a sniff, and then left them alone again to get used to this new way of being. The ewe who had just birthed them, had her head in the paddock eating as if nothing was going on, that is until her lambs found her udder and started helping themselves!
Hopefully there will be more lambs to come over the next few weeks, but the delight of two sets of twins to kick off the season couldn’t go without a post.