Harvest for 2022 - growing the boundaries
|Whiteheads creek garden harvest in Feb 2022|
Another very unusual year, but for very different reasons than the previous COVID years. With the easing of restrictions we were gradually given more opportunities to engage with the rest of society - but for those of us who chose not to get inoculated there were still many barriers in place. There wasn't much that we could do outside of our home during the Lock-Out period - refused entry to pubs, cafés, restaurants, library, pool etc for months into the new year.
But we made the most of the freedoms that we had, building relationships with our local neighbours was one of them. We'd been invited to make use of the land across the road from us, which I'd play footy and soccer on with our kids - Kai and Sen. I noticed an overgrown garden bed smothered in 1m high of grass that I enquired about. I was offered the space to make use of - including access to water and a small shed to store tools. The space is about 150m from our house.
Clearing the rubbish and kikuyu infested bed revealed old wire fencing and piles of rotting wood and steel posts. What could be salvaged was put aside and the bed was covered with a thick layer (20cm) of decomposing reeds, dragged on a sheet of shade cloth from the nearby creek. I then planted potatoes, tomatoes and pumpkin, removing the emerging kikuyu runners as the came through the mulch. I was surprised how well the mulch knocked the grass back and our harvest began from the Whiteheads Creek gardens in Jan.
There's also some old fruit trees there that I've been bringing back down to size. The fig is the most promising.
|Whiteheads creek garden during clean up in July 2021|
|Whiteheads creek garden December 2021|
At around the same time that harvesting began, a replacement the the main sewer pipe was being installed directly across the road from our house. A very active time for months, with huge trucks and excavators at work every day after years of not much happening in our quiet part of the world.
I made the most of these works, reaching out to GV Water to make the request for barbed wire to be removed and a gate to be installed to give better access to the site. I also got permission to manage and replant the site once the works were complete.
|View from Abdallah House driveway to Whiteheads Creek during sewer pipe works|
|Preparing for understory plantings at Whiteheads Creek in July 2022|
|Whiteheads Creek national tree day planting with 60 volunteers - across the road from us.|
I helped to organise an event for National Tree Day with the Seymour Urban Landcare group that I have been involved with. It was a great success and we planted hundreds of mid and understory plants.
One of the things we did in preparation was to remove a thick mat of a ground cover plant that was identified as an environmental weed. I have raised concerns about the removal of 'weeds' to the ground on a number of occasions, pointing out the ecological functions that they play - particularly in building biomass and protecting the soil. Following the guidance of experts in the field we pulled up and rolled up the cover plant using it to create an edge to plant within.
We went away on a 3 month trip in our recently restored 1975 Kombi van (more about that later) straight after the planting. In October, whilst in Western Australia, we heard about the flooding that happened in Seymour and much of the town was evacuated. Fortunately it didn't reach our house, but it did cover most of our plantings and our new garden under over a metre of water, washing away tonnes of mulch, soil and wire plant guards (fortunately we didn't use the green plastic ones pictured above).
|Rail bridge 100m or so from our home - see photos from gallery here|
|This tube stock planting give an indication of how much top soil was washed away during the flooding.|
Upon our return in early November I got to work on the Whiteheads Creek garden so that I could plant it out with summer veggies with rockmelons, pumpkin, potatoes and tomatoes. Then we got together to see what could be recovered from the native plantings. Amazingly many of the plants survived, though levelled flat. In fact, after we staked the mid story plants up they did very well. Much of the soil from where weeding was done was washed away. 10cm or more in places. We have mulched and weeded the area since and it's looking good.
On the home front
We got chickens back in April after about a year of not having them. Time to reinforce the perimeter and install an automatic door for the 'chook tower' where they roost. I'm not convinced that a fox couldn't get in though, as it did in May 2021, but it's certainly much better than it was.
Local chook guru Meg Miller, of Grass Roots magazine fame, had been recommending the Aracana breed as the perfect permaculture chook. She put me onto a local woman who had some and I managed to get a young one as well as a couple of Light Brahma's a dark Brahma and couple of Silkies. A mixed bunch that were rescued. While we were away on our trip we got the chooks looked after by one of Kai's mates. It turned out that the Aracana was a rooster, and we had one of the Silkies and a Brahma sitting on over a dozen fertile eggs when we returned in November. We returned the rooster and moved the 2 mums with the clutch of eggs to an enclosed area the base of our chook tower. We've now got a team of 16 chooks - need to identify the roosters and dispatch them.
|Silkie and Brahma mums with their 11 chicks from an Aracana rooster|
Since we headed off on our trip in August we didn't harvest anything for those 3 months, and it too quite a while to get the gardens back in order before things got back to normal(ish) in Jan of 2023. Very happy with the Tomato harvest of about 80kg including the new garden, this allowed us to preserve enough to last us into the next season - though we didn't take any while we were away. On that note, we did take a lot of dried plums with us on the trip. Great to have some homegrown produce on the road. Also happy to finally get some persimmons from the tree that I grew from seed, 3kg!
- Eggs (2022 harvest total was 99 eggs)
- Had 5 mature hens from late June, but no eggs counted for 3 months from August-October
- Vegetables (2022 harvest total was 187kg+60kg from Whiteheads Creek Garden)
- Similar to last year home harvest, which is good considering we were away + 60kg from new garden!
- Fruit (2022 harvest total was 144kg)
- Down from previous years. Away while mandarin was ready, they got wasted.
- Heavy rains while we were away affected berry and grapes badly.
- Herbs (2022 harvest total was 3.5kg)
- Other - (2022 harvest total was 5.2kg)
See detailed spreadsheet results below, use tab at base to change the year. Updated with new results as the become available.