It’s the beginning of Winter here in South Oz but we’re still getting some gorgeous days. Today is a beautiful, clear, windless, sunny 15 degrees (Centigrade that is, I couldn’t tell you what it is in that other system).
If climate chaos doesn’t bring us any surprises, we will have a mild Winter to follow a mild Summer (counter-intuitively, mild, even cold, is possible in warming, non-linear atmospheric and oceanic systems). So, its time to prepare for the winds and rains of the cold season. SA has six seasons, as defined by the local custodians, the Kaurna folk and this is, in that calendar, a time of preparation for regrowth in our second growing season.
For us Europeans, the cold stirs memories of our ancestry and our bodies start laying on (even more) fat to prepare. Our metabolisms slow down as do those of life in the garden. Deciduous trees are withdrawing chlorophyll from their leaves, storing that expensive substance until the warmth returns, leaving us with the orange and red beauty of cyanins and carotenes to inspire local painters and photographers. The falling leaves make for great mulch and are loved by our chooks. This year I’m keeping a lot aside to create a rich, humus laden material called leaf mold.
It’s time to prune everything in sight to let the sunlight in to warm the groundcovers and keep give the microbes a boost before hibernation or death. I’m giving the Almond, Pear and Plum trees a rally hard prune this year, knocking them down to about 2.5 metres each. I’m not confident about pruning this hard so will structurally prune hard then do a second prune as the new shoots sprout, that way I’ll know where the branches are going to go. I’ve left as much of last year’s wood on the trees as some of them only fruit on second year wood. At least this way, we’ll get a bit of a harvest from them.
New microbes will be out to do the work of converting soil and organic matter into plant ready food. The new critters breeding have metabolisms that are more suited to the cold as well as the airless, waterlogged soil.
It’s also time to feed these hard working soil critters with liquid fertilizers and the generous addition of the deep litter compost from the chook run. Worm farms are emptied and the castings turned to a rich tea. I must water it all on thoroughly, guaranteeing soil moisture and food for the trillions of cold critters to turn into food that can directly be taken up by plants and fungi.
Talking of fungi, they are already taking advantage of cooler temperatures and soil moisture and their mycelial threads can be found beneath wood and leaves where, last week, there were none. Hopefully, all of the spent mushroom substrate that I’ve been spreading will pay off with as much bounty of Oyster mushrooms as it did last year.
Pruning taken care of, fertilizing done, mushrooms and microbes encouraged, it’s time to mulch.
Mulching is a great way to keep your garden alive in Winter, though many think of it as a Summer thing. It provides a blanket to protect the underground parts of plants and to keep the Winter flora and fauna (and intermediates) safe from temperature extremes. Mulch also has a role as a physical barrier against heavy rain and strong winds, both of which may wash away or otherwise damage bare soil.
A well chosen mulch will also feed the soil life as they break it down or it is mechanically broken down by the mechanical forces of the weather.
This year, pest control kicks up an notch as the Winter critters start to look to make a meal of our leafy Winter greens. I’m netting, literally everything this year after losing a lot last year as we stopped using pesticides. The only pest controls this year are finger squishing, netting and slug bait. I still use commercial slug bait in our aquaponics system, it’s the only thing that lures the tiny, baby slugs to their doom. I’ve tried beer traps and the red slug bait but they don’t work for these small ones and they do the most damage. When I have a bit of cash, I’m thinking of investing in some copper strips to go around each bed and the bases of their supports. That seems to be the best way to go – fire and forget, as they say.
That sounds like a lot of work. I’d better get started!
Considered protest votes are never a waste of time. Our electoral system has two categories- formal voting and informal voting. Anything that ‘ticks the boxes’ (pun intended) in the proscribed way is a formal vote and is often counted in the polls. Anything that doesn’t – and that includes the ballots of folks who waste their Saturday morning lining up only to lodge empty ballot papers or scribble obscenities papers.
Better to create a vote that stands for something beyond the muck raking free for all that we call a Federal Election. My Piglet vote is one of those. It is not a vote lightly tossed off because I can’t be bothered looking at the options and parties. I have spent quite a bit of time doing that and chatting to people far more knowledgeable than I about the topic of two party preferred democracy. I have done my due diligence and come to the conclusion that there are no good options. There is nobody running who represents me and what I desire to see in Australia’s future.
Sure there are lots of platitudes and smiling faces promising a lot but they’re all only promising some slight variation on business as usual at a time when we need radical systems change. Democracy is a good starting point for change but we have been presented with it in its shallowest form for too long.. For too long, we have been presented with ‘best of the worst’ scenarios where we have to, quite simply , choose the candidate who we think will do the least damage and keep as much of our money in our pockets as they can all the while while not gutting the three bastions of the federal political parties coffers – health, education and welfare.
As Tony Abbott made abundantly clear, political parties and politicians do not have to honour their electoral promises. There is no law that guides them to do so. So, every election, masses of our taxpayers’ (remember, there is no ‘government money’, it is all taxpayers’ money) gets spent inflating chests and cranking up the tension of the cheek and facial muscles of candidates as they promise the shiniest of things and that they will ‘make it better’. Funnily enough, the candidates must tighten up the cheek muscles on their facial cheeks while we public must pay attention to their other cheeks. And it is all for nothing. As soon as possible, those promises are watered down, forgotten or plain ignored and we can do nothing about it except for wait for the next round of insanity a couple of years down the track. It’s a cycle that has been cranking along for well over a century.
Our system dictates that one of two parties slither their way into Parliament, the other goes into ‘opposition’ and then there are the minor, independent candidates, enough of whom, if elected, can slow down the rampage of the big two. Opposition, of course, means arguing as loudly in parliament while, as quietly as possible, receiving funding from the same companies and individuals that fund the ‘elected’ party. The incumbents have bent this rule and no longer even try to hide their duplicity and corruption. the padding of wallets of old boys networks has in the open ever since they were elected for a second time. Your Gods help us if we see them in for a third round of insanity.
Anyway, anyone can rabbit on about politics. Without politics and sports, bars would be empty.
So I’ve decided to make a public protest vote. My Piglet vote.
This upcoming election, I’ve decided to vote for Piglet, that VERY SMALL companion of Pooh.
Piglets’s journey from being VERY SMALL to being BRAVE is a story that has inspired me for years in its simplicity and purity.
It’s a far cry from the sewer of contemporary politics and our option to vote for the least worst candidate. Interestingly, autocorrect kept insisting on changing that to the ‘least wurst’ candidate
No candidate or party in this bunch of apologists for the excesses of late stage capitalism holds any appeal for me. I’ve done a lot of looking too.
All of them are standing for economic and developmental business as usual as we enter into a time where it is clear that business as usual is killing us.
So, I’m drawing a little house and a BRAVE piglet on the top of my form to replace the #1box.
I don’t want to vote for anyone who is going to perpetuate the obscenities that we are subject to. Even the best of them has no plan to drastically change the economic system (all political decisions are economic decisions under capitalism) that has screwed us over for generations.
So I’m putting my ‘for’ for something that inspires me, makes me feel good and makes the world a better place just by existing.
If you want to do the same, it’s up to you, this is a (two party preferred) democracy after all. You don’t need to vote for Piglet, you may have a Piglet or a Pooh of your own. The key is to turn the tide and vote for something that inspires you.
If you don’t want to do that, I ask you to vote for an independent, yes, any of them. We only need a couple more on the cross bench to be able to slow the planet killing rampage of the two main parties.
We don’t need to ‘make it better’. We don’t need to ‘reduce poverty’ or ‘lift’ people out of poverty. We need to eliminate poverty all together. We don’t need to ‘boost’ education, we need to make sure that everyone gets an education. We don’t need to eliminate crime, suffering or inequality, we need to create a world where those things don’t have to exist. Creating a better democratic system is a good place to start.
The Strawberries in our hanging pots have become quite rampant, with runners hanging down to the ground. I guess that means that it’s time to propagate some new plants. I’ll share with you here the easiest way that I know to propagate them with a good success rate.
Strawberry plants grow as ground hugging stems called runners. At points along those stems, a node forms and this is where the leaves come out. If a node is touching the soil, roots will form and a new plant will grow. The stems in between the nodes are called, technically, ‘internodes’. We simply need to mimic this reproductive pattern and provide ideal conditions for the new plantlet (I prefer to call them ‘Strawberrylings’ – it sounds so much cuter)!
I developed this little trick from ovserving our Pumpkins. When you harvest a Pumpkin, you, traditionally, cut a length of stem that stays on the Pumpkin. This provides moisture to the Pumpkin itself while it ripens completely inside its shell.
With Strawberry runners, I do the same thing. There is a length of stem between the nodes from which the new plants will grow. I cut a good length of this and leave it still attached to each node.
When you have some healthy looking nodes with several sets of young leaves, you only need to bury this section so that the node is covered and a couple of leaves poke out from the soil. Leave the length of stem above ground. It will dry first while more moisture stays in the new plant as it develops roots. Give your upcoming new plants a good water with some dilute Seasol (isn’t that stuff wonderful?) and keep the area moist but not wet for the next couple of weeks.
Leave the baby plant in the soil for a week or two, depending on the time of year. Keep the soil around the plant moist but not wet. After this time, you can try to gently pull the plant out of the ground. If you meet with resistance, stop, it means that the roots are going and holding onto the soil. If you’re really curious (as I always am), you can dig a little of the soil away and check out the roots in their debut performance.
The little plants are now ready to grow right where they are, for potting on or for moving to their preferred new position. Now, you just look after them as you would any new plant. You know what to do!
Last Monday, Jelina and myself headed off to the Playford Community Garden to facilitate a workshop on vertical gardening. ‘Facilitate’ is my new word for me rabbiting on about a topic for an hour or so to a receptive audience. This workshop was special too – it sold out within half an hour of being listed on Eventbrite! Wow!
The topic of this workshop was vertical gardening. I presented a little theory first, using slides that Jelina had created based on my info. As you know, I’m not much of an artist so need. J to add her magic touch to the things I write. One day, I’d love Marlon to bring his particular style of art to the mix too!
Topics covered on the day were ‘why vertical gardening?’ positioning, plant types, drainage, potting media, and adding perlite to make things lighter. I also covered ventilation and passive cooling and how you can achieve all of this in a rental home.
We had a little break then the fun began! Hands-on practical work, making of either two designs of vertical garden for everyone!
We used reclaimed 2 litre bottles form Boost Juice Gawler and 3 litre cooking oil bottles from Poetic justice Cafe* to make the designs and pretty soon had a little production line going doing the prep work of drilling while folks cut the bottles to suit their preferred design. Pretty soon, happy folks had a hanging garden and the skills to make new ones at home. all in all, from the enthusiasm people showed, we should be able to keep many kilograms of plastic out of the waste stream!
If you’re interested in reading about vertical gardening, we’ve made the pdf of the notes available right here.
*PJC have been having issues of late with social media since being hacked so I can’t put a link in this post. I’ll update the one on our Community page as soon as I get updated myself.