Trying to Maintain a Handle on Things

Guys, this baby is springing into life. I thought the last one was fidgety but Little Seedpod seems intent on taking the fidget crown. What is it doing in there? I’ve still got four months to go and at this rate it will have renovated my insides into a mansion while it grows ever bigger with all the good food I’m feeding it. I shouldn’t be surprised. No child of mine was meant to take things lying down. But does it have to be NOCTURNAL? It’s not a seedpod, it’s an owl. An owl with a hammer and overly-enthusiastic ambitions.

The garden continues to be dry here and some of the crops are barely hanging in, like the ground cherries, pumpkins and butternuts. Right now there is water in the garden tanks that I can use to water the garden but I’m having trouble keeping up with everything as my belly gets bigger, the creature inside me gets more boisterous, I get more tired and it’s soooo hot. I really have to take one day at a time at the moment. And make careful choices.

The Little Fulla has really stepped up in helping out lately. He has so much understanding for his five-year-old age. He helps me to harvest the crops every evening, gets the washing out of the machine when asked to and lugs the washing basket into the lounge for me. Then offers to help me carry it outside. He’s always keen to help with dinner, especially the chopping vegetables part. I find it hard to let him help in the evening because that’s when I’m at my worst at the moment and I struggle to maintain patience when I have to multi-task when I’m tired and unreasonably hormonal. But he challenges me, “I can do it.” And he keeps showing me that he can cut things the way that I’ve shown him and he is mindful of the hot things. He can do more than I ask and his innate sense of responsibility means he can use a sharp knife, even one of our big ones, quite effectively without me watching.

If I need to sit down for a rest on the couch, sometimes The Little Fulla comes up to me and just gives me a hug. If I get upset and have to remove myself from the room he comes up to me and gives me a hug and just sits with me quietly for a little while. How did I end up with a child that sweet? For all the ways he’s like me, I don’t think that kind of empathy comes naturally from me. I’m sure I wasn’t like that at his age. He has this ability to stand his ground and remain present even in the face of heightened emotions.

Chickens

I finally got rid of enough chickens to do a stocktake. I have now butchered all the chickens that I needed to; the ones that I definitely didn’t want to breed from. Hooray! But that isn’t the end. The flock is at 27, but that’s still too many. Now I’m in the harder process of deciding which chickens aren’t good enough to keep compared to the others. And there is some stiff competition. Considering the impending baby event, not many of the chickens are immune to the chopping block. At least the lower the numbers get the easier it is to assess everybody.

In terms of cockerels, there are the two remaining older black Morpheus boys. Well, there were until this morning. They were quite similar and quite beautiful but I chose to only keep one. I opted for the one who seemed to have better overall type, a better comb, a more curved tail and less fluff in the trousers. His hackle feathers on his neck haven’t grown out much yet so his neck looks lanky, but he’s coming along nicely.

This is Winston Cheepers, father of the above cockerels when he was the same age.
The dude on the right is still with us. He’s quite pleased about it too. Mr Fluffypants on the left went to freezer camp this morning. His excess fluff on the legs, which comes from his mum Morpheus, was the main point that let him down.

There are still two more cockerel possibilities in the youngest batch, now 13 weeks old: another black Morpheus boy and a blue Jemima boy. The difference with this Jemima boy is that his dad was Winston Cheepers rather than Todd, so he will be a bit different to the last Jemima boys. In terms of females, I have to choose which pullets and hens are the best to carry on with. Before I get too much more incapable. No pressure…! Some of the pullets can be sold though. I am really, really looking forward to finishing butchering. Really. So far, I have processed 33 chickens this year, and 53 since the beginning of October. I am feeling a little bit crazy. The freezer is looking good though. We still haven’t bought any meat this year, aside from some bacon for a special occasion. I think I will make myself a cake when I’m all done. And the garden will get some much-needed attention.

The blue Jemima-Winston Cheepers cockerel struts past and his mum, Jemima, is on the right.
Garden & Food

Aside from the chickens, my focus continues to be on harvesting and preserving food crops. The tomatoes continue to take over the top of the china cabinet and the table. The cucumbers have slowed down because of the dry. The ‘Homemade Pickles’ variety, which I use for pickling gherkins, has done well, aside from the last two plants that were not very strong seedlings. The slicing cucumber beside them (two plants) has also done very well, however, the one by the beans (two plants) hasn’t done as well. I think the one by the beans was ‘Muncher’ and the one by the gherkins was ‘Tendergreen’. That’s what’s written in my spreadsheet anyway. Tendergreen didn’t do well for me last year but this year I added lime to the soil for all the cucumbers. I hope I wrote it down right since I know which one I want to grow next season…

The corn is in its prime now. It has done so well with compost and bark mulch. The variety is ‘Country Gentleman’. The plants are very tall and elegant, with most having two ears of corn and some three or even four. They aren’t quite as sweet as the common hybrid sweetcorn but they are more creamy and filling and we like them a lot. Time will tell how many we eat and how many will have their kernels cut off and frozen for later use. It’s hard to say with two corn nutters in the family.

We have harvested some of our Agria potatoes. The plants at the front of the row had died back so the potatoes needed to come out. The Little Fulla was so excited to dig out the potatoes that he ran off with his garden fork and by the time I got to the Front Plot he had stabbed a big potato onto his fork. It was so stuck on there that I couldn’t pull it off and had to get The Husband to remove it. Then The Husband proceeded to stab some more potatoes while digging around with the fork. The males of the household need potato harvesting lessons. The potatoes were pretty close to the surface, having been covered with a layer of pea straw, so all they needed was careful digging around with gloved hands. We ate the stabbed potatoes roasted and they were so good. The Little Fulla said, “They’re even better than the ones from the supermarket!” Well, I should think so. We harvested 9.2kg and most of the potato plants are still in the garden, to be harvested shortly.

I turned most of the second-to-last Chuck’s Winter squash from last season into pumpkin puree. That’s right, they have stored for some 10 months! It truly is a fantastic squash, being so sweet and soft of flesh as well. I had a sudden need for pumpkin puree when I found a recipe for gluten-free pumpkin waffles from Mama Knows Gluten Free. The Husband made some and they were so tasty. I put the pumpkin puree into bags in 400ml lots, as that’s what’s required for the recipe, then put them in the freezer for later waffle encounters. The largest Chuck’s Winter is still in the Potting Shed, so there will probably be more pumpkin puree to come.

I noticed that the neighbours elderberry tree had bunches of black berries hanging over our side of the fence so I decided I better learn to make elderberry syrup. Elderberry syrup is the best thing I use for winter sicknesses but it isn’t cheap to buy. Well, hopefully I won’t have to buy any this year. I harvested some elderberries, pulled off the ripe ones into a sieve, washed them and put them in the dehydrator. It took a bit of handling time, but it will be worth it. The dried berries can be stored in the pantry until needed, then I can make up a batch of syrup when needed, which stores in the fridge for two weeks, or longer in the freezer. We obviously needed more after the first batch, so The Husband and The Little Fulla climbed the ladder and picked some more.

The bean shelling station has been pumping, with The Little Fulla taking on the position of Head Bean Sheller. I have saved beans from pods that were on plants furthest away from other varieties for seed. I’m looking forward to using and tasting the two new dry bean varieties, ‘Blue Shackamaxon’ and ‘Selugia’. The ‘Henry’s Climbing Butter’ beans are quite large but there aren’t many on a plant. So far I have used them fresh, chopped up into curries and some will be going into the freezer.

The bush beans have nearly all finished and the climbing Blue Shackamaxon is done. The Henry’s Climbing Butter is drying off now while the Yard Long Red Noodle is only just becoming useful. It was the most insect-attacked variety, even with transplanting the seedlings from cell trays. The other climber, Selugia has been slower to produce and ripen its beans but there are heaps of them and we are harvesting the dried pods now. I sowed some more of the faster varieties (bush beans and Blue Shackamaxon) into cell trays to try and get another round of beans before it gets too cold. Some are ready to transplant now. I have also sowed some broccoli, cauliflower and cabbages. I think my nose and stomach can handle them again now. And kale and lettuces for some good greens.

Bean ‘Selugia’ – slow to ripen but rather productive.


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