Autumn is Lovely

I have been enjoying autumn. I mean apart from the hard life circumstances. The weather has been far more settled than summer was. No more intense multi-day storms, aside from this atmospheric river thing we’re having this week, with very humid weather with random rain. There have been cooler days. And cool winds! It’s been a breath of fresh air.

Since I was recovering from surgery I haven’t been able to do anywhere near as much as I usually can. You can imagine that hasn’t gone down particularly well with me. Even when I know I can’t do much and I know I need to rest, I still have to fight off the frustration and the condemnation amidst a messy homestead.

Yet I have been able to do some things and I’ve been slowly catching up. We harvested tomatoes, which didn’t last as long as usual thanks to late blight, cucumbers, beans, ground cherries, apples and then feijoas! What a welcome sight. The peppers are still hanging in there. It hasn’t been a great harvest with the blight but they’re doing better now than they were in summer. We’ve picked and dehydrated some paprika peppers and plenty of cayenne peppers, which are doing much better in their more sheltered position on the deck. We also harvested some nice big carrots and our small crop of potatoes.

The Raised Bed Veggie Garden.

Just before my surgery I got the brassicas sowed for the cold season: broccoli, cauliflower, cabbages, kale, tatsoi and pak choy. I’m so glad I made that a priority. The seedlings were up and ready for me before too long. It took me three days, but I got all the little seedlings pricked out and potted up into 6-cell packs to grow on until planting time. They’re still waiting to be planted because I have a lot of weeding to do in the Front Plot. I’m currently juggling between weeding the Front Plot, so I can rescue the kumara and get the brassicas planted, and reclaiming the Herb Garden, which was crying out to be rescued from the weeds. The Herb Garden is rather winning on attention though.

It’s time to plant garlic here, in our garlic-rust-challenged climate. I can see how I can grow garlic now with timing, spacing and feeding considerations, but in this busy time of life with a young child I decided not to grow it this year. If it’s not fed well it doesn’t get very big. The chances of me feeding it regularly are realistically not great this year and I think my time and space would be better utilised to grow more onions and brassicas. Also, I have a lot of brassica seedlings and onion bulbs that have to be stuffed somewhere.

Last season I grew perennial onions, or multiplying onions, for the first time, outside of the clumping spring onions or green onions, which are ever-present in the garden. I grew Egyptian Walking Onions and Potato Onions, both of which have a more mild, shallot-like flavour. I cured all these onions on the deck for at least six weeks then went through them all, trimming off stalks and dirty outer skins and sorting them into bulbs to save for planting and ones for eating. With Egyptian Walking Onions I saved the smallest bulbs for planting, plus the little bulbils that form on the seedheads and flop over onto the ground. With the Potato Onions I saved the biggest bulbs for planting. I left them on the deck in trays for several more days, to fully cure or dry, then put them into paper bags. I could actually plant them already! But for the weeds.

Egyptian walking onions.
Potato onions.

There’s been a lot of tidying going on outside, which is fantastic. It’s still just a dent in what needs to be done but I’m reminding myself that each bit done is a victory. We finished demolishing The Little Fulla’s cabin. It was great while he used it, but it became a place for him to stuff junk and then he started demolishing it by removing pieces of timber, screws and nails. With Miss Scarlet getting into everything outside it was time to say goodbye to the cabin. The backyard does look rather much nicer with it gone as it has opened things up. I re-sowed the dirt patch with grass. It’s trying to get past the challenges of playing children and sneaky birds.

Goodbye, cabin.

While digging some weeds out of the garden for me, The Husband found skink (lizard) eggs and a little frog. The Little Fulla was most excited about the discovery of these critters and promptly put them into a tank, which has been residing in his room. He has been learning the responsibility of catching flies and moths for the frog. We were surprised to see that at least two of the skink eggs hatched little baby skinks! However, we since found out that the skinks are ‘plague skinks’, which are pests here and we are not allowed to spread them, so we are leaving them in the tank with the frog so he can eat them…

Hello, little frog.

We’ve had a lot of trouble with sour crop in the chickens, stemming from the time around my surgery. I suspect it started when water got into the bottom of the auto-feeders around the time of the cyclone and I didn’t realise for a bit that the feed down the bottom was wet and going yucky. There was also some surface flooding around the edge of the citrus pen which could have been contaminated from a neighbours septic runoff. I had to put them in that pen for a bit because of the danger of the splitting cedar branch up high over the other pen. In any case, it’s incredibly hard to deal with sick animals when you’re dealing with your own big health and recovery things, so I had to cull a lot of the affected birds because I couldn’t manage to isolate and look after them, keeping up with cleaning cages and everything. Sour crop can spread easily to other chickens so affected birds need to be isolated, all birds need to have their waterers cleaned and disinfected and the affected birds need to eat soft food like scrambled egg that isn’t going to worsen a yeast infection, as opposed to chicken feed with wheat in it. And cages, etc. have to be cleaned. Missing just one of these steps can lead to another infected bird and so on. I’m hoping I have the last infected bird in containment now.

Some of the chickens are looking really good though. I’m quite pleased with two of the cockerels. We have Ron Swanson, the black son of Judith, hopefully, although there’s a possibility his mother was Ninja. We have Ben Wyatt, the black son of Dahlia, from the younger batch. He’s bigger than Ron Swanson now and is looking quite impressive. And then we have Tom Haverford, the blue son of Judith, who’s a bit all-over-place and rather too frisky with the ladies. He’s currently in the Henly Hut in the corner with some pullets so I can hatch eggs from him. I like his colouring but his body type isn’t as good as the other two, so after I get some children out of him he will be going. It’s been four weeks of them being separated now so I can safely assume that the eggs will be fertilised only by him. The trouble is, one of the pullets in with him just went broody. So when she gets out of the broody breaker cage I can hopefully save eggs for hatching! The other two cockerels have been getting on alright with Basil, head rooster. Tom Haverford was a stirrer. Basil is moulting at the moment, along with the hens, so he’s a scrawny mess. I’m looking forward to seeing how he compares to his sons once he’s got all his nice new feathers in.

Ron Swanson (on table) and Ben Wyatt.
Ben Wyatt.
Tom Haverford.


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