Ants, Aphids and Learning New Things!

Well one thing is for certain, we never stop learning! I have recently made a new discovery, we have struggled to get rid of infestations of aphids and scale on some of our fruit and ornamental trees. It puzzled me why, when we have so many beneficial insects in our garden, why???? Why were these friends of ours not fighting the war in the rest of the garden? Well the answer is ants! Ants have their role to play in the great cycle of things, however if you have ants on your trees, they are more than likely harvesting food, and that food is the sugary secretions from scale and aphids. These busy ants take it back their nest to feed their colony. And not only are they harvesting but they are protecting the aphids from predators (gardener’s friends). So in order to have any hope of controlling aphids or scale you must control the ants.

In the photo above you can see I have put tape just under where the tree forks, then smeared a thin layer of Tree Guard, this is a type of glue available where you buy or order your gardening products. The ants disappear, they can’t stand it! Then something amazing happens, all those wonderful insects that love to eat aphids and scale come and do what they do best, feast on them!

Soldier Beetle

I inspected my Bush Lemon tree that was just loaded with ants before I applied the tape and glue. It now has so many different insects and wasps all over it, taking care of the pests for us, amazing! I always thought the ants were a problem, I just didn’t realise how much of a problem they were. They are only doing what is natural and ants are important in the grand scheme of things, however in my opinion the tape and glue is a wonderful idea because you are not wiping out an entire ant colony, you are simply deterring them.

Mangoes!!

We are enjoying a bounty of mangoes from the garden at the moment. They are smaller this year but still delicious! My goal when we first moved to this farm 8 years ago was to have enough fruit trees to supply our needs year round. I am slowly beginning to reap the rewards as the garden matures. Each season brings different challenges and some years are better than others, overall though we are becoming more and more self-sufficient in our own small way.

We have also had some new additions to our farm 4 baby guinea fowl. Thank you Gayle! I will try and get a photo soon, they are still settling into their new home, last night was their first night here. The geese are very interested in these new additions, walking around their home, trying to get a look at these new babies! I would have to say if you are wanting a pair of body guards for your young, geese are a very worthwhile addition to the family! Ours are very lovely, we have 2 females and I have never regretted purchasing them. I love to watch them walk around the garden and carry on with their antics! And their eggs are amazing!

Buckwheat (white flowers) so easy and beneficial to grow in your vegetable garden, marigolds, clover and lucerne.

I have been working in the garden, trying to keep on top of things, I think I’m getting there! That mental list that we all have each day. But as time has gone on, I have learnt to let go and accept that each day is different. If everything on that list doesn’t get checked off, that’s okay, tomorrow is another day. And I want to enjoy the task that I’m doing, give it my full attention, rather than constantly thinking of every other thing that needs to be done. Life is filled with daily tasks, whether you live on a farm or in town. Go to a job or stay at home. We all have set missions each day. I believe it’s important to do whatever it is we are doing to the best of our ability, but also to be kind to ourselves. Enjoying those little things that bring us joy. Sometimes I just stop and watch the little wrens in my garden, or sit and take in the flowers and bees around me. It could be something as simple as your child quietly reading a book, at dinnertime when there is complete silence because everyone is enjoying the meal you have prepared! What an achievement that is! It’s something to stop and appreciate whats around us whatever that might look like for each of us. Some days are harder than others but with each new day there are precious gifts, if we are able to look, to be aware and have the eyes to see them.

In The Kitchen

Well here we are it’s Friday and another week is finishing and the weekend is just around the corner! We have had some cooler weather and some more light rain, which has been such a relief after some very hot and humid days. However the humidity and heat that we dread has made the grass in our paddocks really start to take off and grow, which is wonderful. We will be even happier to see the dams full enough to let our cattle into all of our paddocks but all in all it’s just so lovely to have green all around us again!

With the cooler weather I have been back in the kitchen baking one of our favourites to have with a cup of tea. I thought I would share it with you today, it’s so simple, keeps well and tastes great.

Five-Cup Loaf is the name of this loaf, it only makes a small loaf so if you want something a little bigger just double the recipe, but keep an eye on the cooking time.

Ingredients are 1 Cup (175g) Self-Raising Flour, 1 Cup (35g) Bran, 1/2 Cup or a good handful of chopped Dates (or mixed fruit if you prefer), 1 Cup (230g) Milk, 1 Cup Soft Brown Sugar.

Place all ingredients into a bowl. Stir and leave for about an hour.

Then place into a small loaf tin and bake at 180 Degress Celcius ( 356 Degrees Fahrenheit) for an hour, but check yours as the time gets near, all ovens are different and have their own personalities!

Lovely with a bit of butter and a cup of tea!

I don’t know about you but I have kept my hand written recipes in all sorts of different books over the years. You can buy lovely tins now with recipe cards that you write on which always catch my eye, but I just don’t find them big enough or as many in the tins as I would like. I finally found a solution! I was watching a lovely American lady on youtube a little while ago who was sharing a recipe and she went on to show her audience how she stores her recipes in a wooden box on index cards. And I thought what a great idea and they are so cheap, here in Australia you can buy a packet of 100 for about $10.

These are how I store mine in a basket with some old recipe books holding them up for now. You could use any sort of container. And if you are really efficient, number them so you can go straight to whatever recipe you want (I haven’t done that yet) but it makes a lot of sense.

Looking down into part of my orchard

I hope you all have a beautiful and safe weekend. Feel free to leave a comment, or share how you like to keep your treasured recipes.

FEEDING THE SOIL

This is the time of year I like to slow down on the growing and try and put back some goodness into the soil. This I find challenging, because I’m always feeling the need to grow as much as I can for as long as I can. But I know that the benefits will be there as the weather cools and the vege garden is at it’s most productive time.

Here in this part of Australia, we can grow almost year round, the heat from December through to March can be at it’s hottest though. So in countries where they put their garden to bed over the Winter, I almost feel like this should be a time for us to do the same.

Green manure crop of soya bean, tomatoes that have come up on their own and other bits and pieces.
All chopped up and I have added comfrey and Arrowroot leaves for extra goodness ( I left the pretty pink Zinnia)

This garden is ready to mulch and left to break down. I have grown alot of green manure crops over the years in my garden, things like mustard, barley, broad beans, premix blends. When you have a large garden like mine it’s a good way to cover a large area with minimal cost.

Comfrey
Arrowroot (Gets a beautiful bright red flower in the warmer months)

Comfrey and Arrowroot are handy additions to the garden. The poultry love it too. I find the Arrowroot extremely hardy whereas the comfrey needs some shade and extra water. The other thing I absolutely love to grow in the cooler months and is very similar to comfrey is borage, the bees just love the flowers! And once you have grown it, it will keep coming back all on it’s own when the conditions are to it’s liking.

Another way that I feed my soil and have seen the benefits to my vegetable garden is keeping a big bucket in my kitchen (with a lid, it can get smelly) and place all of our scraps in there that the chooks are not given for example potato peelings, onion skins, banana skin, egg shells, tea leaves, all that sort of thing. And when the buckets full, dig a hole and throw it in! Easy and free. To me I think of my whole garden as a worm farm, I feed it, I mulch it and I keep away from chemicals.

Zinnia
Sunflower and Salvias are always a part of my garden
Hollyhocks growing at the wrong time of year!
Dahlia

Flowers and herbs are essential to a healthy chemical free garden. I have calendula, marigolds, salvias, clover, lucerne, zinnias, buckwheat, sunflowers, lemon verbena, basil, dahlias and many more popping up and being planted. This keeps the good/beneficial insects fighting the good fight in my garden and also brings me alot of joy and satisfaction. So many of my plants are left to go to seed and they come back all on their own year after year. Once again minimal cost or no cost really and huge benefits for myself and the garden. The plants get stronger as the seed is adjusting to my soil and conditions, this is why saving your seed verses always buying it in is so important. Each year you save your own seed, that seed amazingly becomes more and more resilient and adapted to your soil and your conditions. The miracle of the created world around us! And you are becoming more self-sufficient, not relying on other people in an ever changing world.

I have a simple Comfrey Ointment recipe to share, if you google the benefits of Comfrey there are many. It is so good for so many things. This is a cream I used to make frequently, to be honest I haven’t for some time, but have been thinking I should get into the habit again. It makes enough for yourself and to share.

  • 80 Grams Comfrey Leaves Finely Chopped
  • 50 Grams Beeswax
  • 270ml Olive Oil or Coconut Oil
  • Place oil in a pot and add comfrey leaves
  • Bring to the boil then simmer for about and hour ( I usually turn it off after about 15mins and let it sit in the hot oil, then heat it up again for a bit)
  • While the comfrey is simmering grate your beeswax then tip into a bowl
  • Pour your comfrey/oil through a strainer into the beeswax and stir until wax melts
  • Mixture should start to thicken as it cools, place bowl into a bowl or sink of cold water
  • Once mixture is nice and thick put into jars and store in fridge

Happy Gardening!!

Rosella Jam

My Summer Garden

Welcome to my blog! I’m so happy to be finally writing my very first post!! I feel like there is still a great deal to learn, but like most things in life I will learn in the doing or trying. My vege garden is the perfect example of this, you can read and listen and gather so much information, which is so important in itself, but the process of success and failures, trial and error are some of the most valuable lessons I have learnt. Growing food for our family has always been important to me, the simple act of going out and picking food for our table has never lost it’s appeal! I know exactly where it has come from and not a single chemical has touched it. The addition of a reliable water source and an irrigation system ( thanks to my husband) has made life in the vege patch a whole lot brighter! We struggled through heat and drought and now 8 years on from when we first arrived here on our farm we have reached a milestone in our food garden.

Rosella seedlings ready for planting

We’ve had some lovely light rain through the night and for all of today. It seems like so long inbetween rain days around here. We are hoping this Summer will bring good falls that will fill all our stock dams and replenish the water table for everyone.

Thankfully I managed to get all of my Rosella seedlings into the garden in time for the beautiful rain to help them grow, there is just nothing like rain to make stuff grow!

I don’t know about you, but I just love Rosella Jam. Once again I know I’m eating jam with fruit that has not been sprayed with any chemicals and it tastes delicious! I have a beautiful Rosella Jam recipe I would love to share with you.

Rosella Jam Recipe

Ingredients

  • Rosella’s, Sugar, Water, 1tsp Butter, Juice of one Lemon
  • Seperate red calyxes from the seedpods
  • Wash and drain calyxes/seedpods separately
  • In a saucepan add seeds and enough water so seeds are just covered
  • Bring to the boil and cook covered for 30 minutes
  • Strain and reserve juice, seeds can now be discarded
  • With juice returned to saucepan add red calyxes, which have been washed and drained
  • Boil for 20 minutes or until a pulp is formed
  • Measure the volume of cooked pulp and return to pan
  • Add one good tsp of butter and the juice of one Lemon
  • Measure sugar to the same amount as the pulp weighed
  • For example add one cup of sugar to each cup of pulp
  • Warm the sugar and add to saucepan
  • Sugar can be warmed by placing on a tray on a low heat in the oven
  • Stir well until sugar is completely dissolved
  • Boil quickly uncovered for 20 minutes or until jam falls thickly from a spoon when tested
  • Fill sterilised jars with jam while the jars and jam are still warm

I hope this becomes a favourite in your home too.

Tomorrow I will be removing a clucky hen from the main chook house to a quieter area on her own. The loveliness of walking around the garden after rain or hopefully in the rain! Pulling out unwanted weeds, dreaming about what other things I should grow, and enjoying a good cup of tea. Plus all the other household chores that come with family, school holidays and farm life! I hope this finds you well, and I hope as the year draws to an end and a new one begins you are able to find little things throughout your day that bring you moments of joy.