It’s nearly the end of autumn, and here in Canberra we have another few days of warm(ish) sunny weather forecast. I’ve been really enjoying getting into the garden this autumn, after a couple of years of neglect since our youngest was born. Our little vegie patch is coming along nicely, with the silverbeet and lettuces I planted earlier in the season already giving us some good winter greens.
Autumn is ending though and the leaves have almost all fallen. We have three large deciduous trees in our front yard which drop an awful lot of leaves between them. Those that fall on the garden beds we just leave in place as an extra layer of mulch, but the lawn is already patchy from all those years of neglect during the drought, and combined with being on the south (ie shady) side of the house, the leaves provide just a bit too much sun protection!
So on the weekend, I offered my ten- and five-year-olds two dollars each to rake up the leaves and distribute them to more useful places around the garden – the compost pile, the weedy area around the edge of our vegie patch, and the chook run. Slave labour? Well, originally they agreed on a dollar each (Mr ten needed one more dollar to have the money to buy a book he wanted, and was looking for a way to earn it), but when I went out and saw the extent of the job, I decided that was just a bit mean.
They didn’t do a perfect job of course – there are still plenty of leaves there, and while the driveway, footpath, and road gutters look better, they don’t look tidy exactly – but they did enough to save the lawn and to make the chooks very happy. And they were kept busy, working co-operatively outside, for about an hour, and then another 20 minutes or so later on. I did give them a 50c bonus each for working so well together (possibly helped by me have foreshadowed the possibility of such a bonus). All in all it was a good morning’s work, and fun too.
I’ve made an interesting discovery about our front courtyard. Earlier in autumn I decided to dig up a volunteer tomato from the garden and try to keep it alive in a pot through the winter, as an experiment. I have it sitting out the front of our house. Our house is sideways on the block, so that’s not in the South facing front yard, but in the East facing front sort-of-courtyard. It’s a large paved space, extending to include the driveway (partially covered by a carport), and also including a semi-enclosed area with half walls around it.
Now, this front area doesn’t get a great deal of sun, particularly in the winter, with the sun so far North, because it has the house on one side and the carport on the other. But, it does have a lot of paving and brickwork around, and is quite sheltered from wind. And what I’ve discovered is that it is almost frost proof.
I was carefully bringing my tomato up onto our small front porch, in deep cover, before going to bed each night, but one night I forgot. Of course, that night was the first night of the season the temperature went dow to -4 degrees Celcius. We’d had a few frosts already, but that was a doozy. Our back deck was covered in frost, and the railing had a thick layer of ice, as did our dog’s water bowl. That, I assumed, was the end of the tomato experiment. “I figured this would happen sooner or later,” I told my husband, “It’s just such a shame when it’s actually got some little tomatoes on it now.”
But low and behold, I went out the front and the tomato was untouched by frost. In fact, there was no sign of frost in that whole paved area. I’ve checked several times since then. No frost. Ever.
We’d already decided to build a raised garden bed in that courtyard before Spring, partly because we’re going to rearrange our backyard and our dog will then get access to the current vegie garden space (so that we can exclude him from some space for the kid’s swing, and to revive the sandpit), but also because we actually have much easier access to the courtyard and walk through it every day, so from a permaculture perspective (in fact, really from any perspective), it’s far more practical.
So now, I’m quite excited to build the garden, and see if we can get some of our favourite frost tender vegies going a bit early this year – between the advantages of a raised bed warming earlier, and an apparently frost free zone, I’m thinking we could get tomatoes in maybe two months early. Usually, frost tender plants can’t go in the ground until early November in Canberra. The challenge will be weather we can find a spot that will get enough sun. I’m moving my potted tomato twice a day to get (maybe) 6 hours of sun. But that’s in winter. Hopefully in summer it will be better, though the ideal spot to fill up with a big garden bed is not the ideal spot from a sun/shade perspective. But it’s also not in the way of getting to the car!
It’s time I went to bed. But here’s some more reading to warm your winter chills – or possibly cool your summer heat, depending on which hemisphere you’re in! (Not that it is winter or summer yet, but frankly, I am always a little over winter by the end of May, and I swear May is way colder than August in Canberra. It’s certainly had some chilly mornings this year!)
Starting a container orchard from Farmer Liz at Eight Acres (We have a bit of a container orchard going ourselves at the moment, though most are due for planting out this winter – except the orange, I think, which I will possibly keep in a pot at least for the first few years, and maybe the blueberry)
Real Raw Food from hugo & elsa (I just discovered this blog, and couldn’t resist this post having just done the same thing myself, after reading Frugavore. Though for the price and the amount of milk we go though I just can’t see keeping it up, besides I was a *wee* bit nervous about feeding it to the kids, as ridiculous as I’m sure that is, though I did make yoghurt. Plus, the video is priceless.)
Wanted – skills for life from Rhonda at Down to Earth (because I have a half written post in a similar vein that is mostly a review of Frugavore, and another related one that will hopefully appear soon over the Apron Stringz in her guest post series)
And finally How Many Slaves Work for You? My comments about slave labour were throw-away, but the sad truth is that there is still far, far more child slave labour in this world than I think most of us realise or can comprehand. The quiz is a bit of a blunt instrument and makes a lot of assumptions that may, or may not, be accurate, but either way it provides some really good food for thought. Where we spend our money really does matter.