Friday, August 8, 2014

Our Garden through the seasons.

Winter is a time I like to use the opportunity for to do work in the garden, when there's time.
It's cold, but the weather is usually crisp & bright although it gets dark at around 4pm. When the snows fall, it usually settles for a few days and makes the dormant nature much prettier.

Spring is also a beautiful time of course. The large cherry blossom behind the house that is usually forgotten throughout the year is spectacular.

In March of this year, we got our first livestock pet / animal given to us by a local breeder, who was introduced via one of the mothers in our daughter's kindergarten.

This is Hana with her mother on the day we met her. She was about 2 months old at the time.

Very cute! But I was a bit concerned to be taking her away from her source of highly nutritious mother's milk.

I built her a large but portable house, so she could have shelter in the rain. It's large because we hope to have more goats from Hana's offspring in future.

We were pleased to see she soon became accustomed to being with us.

We bought her plenty of hay & oats, to help her grow.

She became quite friendly at an early stage. There's been no problem at all with her and our children, to whom she comes now to be petted.

The grass needs trimming in the early summer and maintained, which is one reason we got Hana, although she's not able to munch enough on her own. First we must let our her grow to full size before we introduce her to a mate, so she can have her own kids. The plan is to have several goats and keep the family growing, so eventually we have free-range goats in the forest behind the house, so they will naturally tend to the foliage that grows there.

In this picture they're each on a dog-run leash system, but this was just a temporary measure. We recently begun using a portable electric fence with a solar powered energizer sourced from the US. It took Jenny & Hana about 20 minutes to learn never to touch the wires again and now they're free to roam within the confines of the chosen perimeter enclosed by the electric fencing, which is movable within 10-15 minutes and can enclose up to 100m of perimeter.

She's grown larger but is still not fully grown - at least she still doesn't look like her mother's size so we'll let her get larger before trying to find her a mate!

I'd hoped to have a chicken run completed & ready for use in the spring, but as usual - other projects & work have delayed our plans.
It'll be built next to a greenhouse and we should have it completed before winter I hope...
We're looking forward to having an abundance of fresh eggs all the time and later on, proper free range chickens that grow wild in the forest.
We have pheasants and they survive with no predators we know of, except grass snakes that might try & eat their eggs, but chickens are pretty tough too. Especially cockrels, so I expect our free range chickens should be OK...

My wife wanted to save seeds from winter plants this spring, so we tried.
We learnt that saving them is a messy & time consuming task which stops us from growing other foods effectively meantime. We're not even sure the seeds we saved will germinate next year, so I'm not too convinced I want to repeat the same next year...Maybe we should try the seeds out first and go from there.

In an effort to rotate where we grow crops, I planted pimpkins & mini tomatoes here this year. We also planted Soya beans, corguette, beetroot, popping corn, green peppers, eggplant, French beans and Okra. Most of it has worked OK. For some reason we didn't get many potatoes or lettuce in the summer. Funny, as we had lettuce each day in the winter. Always much to learn as we progress and we want to develop perennials too, such as Asparagus & Artichokes.

We also planted several fruit trees in early summer. They're mostly growing OK, but slowly. I'll keep feeding them with choicken manure bought cheaply for now...

These pictures were taken early in the summer, but we're getting more tomatoes now than we can consume ourselves. Whilst we're away on holiday, Arnie our carpenter is helping himself to the produce now.

These are some of the other raised garden beds where we grew winter veggies including broccoli, onions, chives, lettuce, cabbage, carrots and more.
Much space was wasted when we tried saving seeds. This was only our first time growing winter crops. Over the next year I want to use these beds for growing intensively, together with our intended chickens preparing & fertilising the ground before...

This trellis is bare in the picture, but now in the height of summer it's half covered in vines for Kiwi and grapes. Unfortunately one of the grape vines inexplicably died, but the rest are doing OK. I'll need to plant a new one next spring. Too late to plant now as these shrubs will be turning dormant in just a couple of months and around spring should be the time to plant again. We've planted many fruit trees where the sun shines the longest on, hopefully within another year or two we'll begin to have fruits, but I've also been pruning them quite lot so they remain low enough for fruit to be reachable by an adult.

This is how much the vines have grown - now being nearly the end of August. In the winter I'll prune them back again. Perhaps we'll begin to have grapes from next year, I hope. We've had lots of mini tomatoes, Okra, popcorn (for the kids!), soya beans, cucumbers, beetroot, peppers, aubergines and other veggies this summer, with quite minimal work.

I'm hoping to find an older, perhaps retired good part-time gardener to help maintain our garden and hopefully teach us how to grow crops well from his / her experiences so we can fast-track our family's learning & grow foods more effectively in future ourselves too.

There have been many failures in growing our foods, but some surprising successes too. It's a learning process all the while. I really am looking forward to having chickens as soon as possible.

Finally, here's a couple of pictures of the rear of the house, just before the forest. In the spring, Jun dug a very deep ditch here. Starting at about a metre depth and ending about 3 metres deep when close to the drop into the ravine below, so water can travel downhill along it's length.
The forest around the side & back of the house is at higher level than the house itself, so it follows that water & moisture seeps through the ground and makes the underside of the house damp. Although this isn't a huge problem (The house is built on stilts on top of large stones for each support), in the long term it's not good as it encourages damp, etc.
So the plan is to first route grey water drainage from the shower room (Toilet has it's own routing to the self-contained sewage system)+ rain water from the back of the roof - into the ditch. This will be drained via a perforated pipe into the ravine below.
The pipe being perforated, so it will be covered in gravel. The idea is that the water then has no way to come from the forest under the house, instead it will be channeled to the land below. It will be quite a lot of water, since the roof's area is large - so this water will go through a wetland section to purify it, before being fed into a large pond which I intend to create when time allows, using our mini digger, etc. Excess water from the pond will drain into the marshy area further down, which we don't use.

Thus we'll be able to provide an environment with water that is renewed naturally for ducks to prosper and multiply on our land.
Yet another source of good eggs, meat, plus help with the garden's slugs, etc. The more connections we can make between resolving problems and encouraging diversity of nature, the better!

I have left filling the ditch in, until it gets cooler as it's too hot & humid to be doing such work right now. I'd rather it were cool & dryer before doing such heavy work.

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