28 August 2008

Hands in the Soil

What a great day it's been! I spent the entire day (well most of it, anyway) in the veggie garden. Planted a bed full of Dragon's Lingerie beans -- a great bean for drying. Cleared another bed for Carrots and Beets. Cleared weeds and thinned Beets. Cleared pathways and re-surveyed several of the beds that have "wandered" from years of being dug over using the Mark One Eyeball Edge Estimation Technique.

The weather was not brilliant -- windy with a not-so-subtle hint menace of chill, but better than the forecast for the weekend. That means I'll likely have be trapped indoors over the weekend, with plenty of time for my course-preparation work then, and I decided that I'd rather take advantage of my current happy-clientlessness and the half-decent weather to get preparations underway for the new season.

I really must build a compost heap, if only as a way to provide some bottom-heat for getting Chillis germinated. I have seed-trays planted out, but temperatures are certainly not what Chillis would really like, yet, so any help I can give them sounds like a good idea.

Even though I'm pretty out of shape from 9 months of deskwork and my lower-back and arms ache a bit, its a good ache! A much healthier feeling. I feel much, much better for having had my hands in the soil all day than I've ever got from having my hands on a keyboard all day.

The image of self-sufficiency as a life of pure drudgery and unremitting toil is just plain wrong. I can't imagine anything more drudgeful, unremitting and draining than a day of office politics, meetings and drearily coding CRUD1. The human mind, body and spirit are not made for that; we need variety. We need quiet time. We need non-thinking time. We need contact with the Earth; with the soil. Gardening gives us all these and more.

I recall reading that physical contact with the soil has been proven beneficial: Soil contains bacteria and fungi that stimulate endorhpin production and so literally makes us feel good! (Wish I could find the reference, but I can't. Anyone who does, please drop me a line.) I guess this assumes that your soil is healthy and free of toxic concoctions...

Whatever the reason... a Good Day!
[1] For non-computer people, that's a technical acronym for "Create Read Update Delete" -- the most boring, mindless and tedious kind of programming there is. And a whole bunch of what's wanted out of corporate software.

24 August 2008


Spring seems to be springing up on us again. Comfrey is making new leaves, Apple trees are blossoming, and various birds are growing their mating plumage.

Time to get a-planting! Sowed trays of Tomatoes -- 14 varieties, despite my solemn promise to myself to focus on fewer varieties this year -- and Chillis -- 10 varieties so far, but I still have to sow the "large quantities wanted" varieties: Jalapeño, Serrano, Cherry and Habanero.

Also managed to get some Squashes into the ground, in a bed close-by where I can cage and guard them closely against the dread Pumpkin Flies -- If I can just get 2-dozen undamaged squashies off that lot we'll be set for a year's supply. Black Futsu and some anonymous Japanese-origin winter squash already planted; must still get come Butternuts and Gems (Acorn Squash) into the ground. According to local weatherlore, I'm 10 days late with Squash sowing! Summer Squashes will come and go as space and fancy permits. Cucumbers will have to share space with the Grapevines and Granadillas -- I don't have the time to give them their own dedicated space.

I'm also way behind on compost making, so its going to be a chaotic and challenging season this year. Mostly due to my being chained to a desk this year. Though its been good for the bank-balance, I'm very glad relieved beyond belief that my contract comes to an end on Monday and I can gleefully fire the bunch of halfwits I've been working for, and get back some balance and garden time.

Sorted out the Lettuce seed stock, so now I have a clear idea of which Lettuce varieties need propagating-up to get the volumes healthy. It's pretty challenging keeping 16 varieties of Lettuce all going at once.

Sadly the Mangels I was growing for seed (they're biennial, so need two years to produce seed) were taken out by Rats during the Winter. Fortunately I still have enough seed to start again.

Mustn't forget to sow Basil, Lemon Basil, Parsley, Coriander, Bok Choi, Tatsoi (sp?), sundry Cabbage Tribe, get some Sweet Potato runners,... oh! and beans for drying are wanted in Significant Measure this year. It is not very difficult to get self-sufficient in Beans for a year, even though I like Beans (A Lot!) as they're such a trouble-free crop. Not to mention that, last time I checked, prices for dried Beans and Lentils were over 150% higher (globally!) than last year. Then, too, I'm keen to try my hand at growing Sorghum for feeding to the chooks.

Lots of work ahead to get beds prepared... that old Spring Panic again!

05 August 2008

Beelieve It Or Not...

A good-sized swarm of bees has just a few minutes ago moved into one of our bee-boxes.

They totally ignored the freshly-prepared and lovingly-tended catch boxes we've had out since our last, unsuccessful attempt to catch a swarm, and moved into the tatty, unprepared full-sized brood-box! In the space of just 5 or 10 minutes, they moved in and are contentedly getting the furniture arranged. The only trouble is that the box in question is a bit too close to the house and the veggie-garden gate for comfort. Bear in mind that these are not your meek and mild European Bees, but a race of the dread and fearsome African Honey Bee -- Apis mellifera capensis -- and not to be messed with lightly. We'll give them a few days to get settled, and then see to moving the hive somewhere a bit more convenient to ourselves. The bad thing is that the hive is totally vulnerable to any Honey Badgers that might wander by -- we'll just have to keep our fingers crossed for a few days until we can get them settled somewhere safer.

Hooray! Finally, after years of trying to catch a swarm...

(In the picture you can probably not make out the Bees themselves moving into the white, full-sized box. Atop the hive is one of the catch boxes, freshly prepared, and not yet placed in a strategic location.)

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