Displaying items by tag: Winter

    Thursday, 09 July 2020 11:11

    Winter Harvests, & Winter Beginnings

    It might seem like winter is a bad time to harvest things, particularly to those who live in colder places. Now, while I freely admit that Canberra isn't likely to snow very often, it regularly gets as low as -4oC, and occasionally even -8oC. Fortunately, we haven't quite gotten that low just yet (and we're now into July) so the late autumnal harvests are now finally getting to the stage that we can clean those up, and tend to the garden for some winter sowing. What?! Winter!... Have I gone mad? Almost certainly, dear reader, but not necessarily in this particular instance.

    Here is our most recent bounty... a few dozen Kiwi Fruit! The vines which have wandered their way up the cherry tree have been surprisingly effective at confusing the Cherry Slugs, and so we had our first ever successful cherry harvest back in Summer time. Now winter is upon us, and the Kiwi vines have died off, we hopped back up to the cherry tree to pick our... Kiwi fruit.

    You might recognise the colander as the same one as the one holding the cherries in an earlier post. If you didn't, that's ok, I'm sure you have much more important things to think about.

    We ate a few, but like all things when the harvest hits you in full force, once a year.. we had to preserve the remainder. So Wren made some Kiwi syrup, Kiwi sauce, and Kiwi jam.. and the list almost certainly goes on from there... Fancy a kiwi-flavoured indulgence? It's weird but it goes well with Quark cheese on toast!

    Kiwi's aren't the only things that are coming up. We've harvested some "Purple Congo" potatoes when we were redoing some raised beds. (They really are purple) and our spinach is doing surprisingly well. The more we cut it, the more it seems to grow. Frankly, it's not the most exciting crop ever, but apparently my rate of consumption is no match for this plant's growth rate... and I can eat a lot. :-)

    Now what?

    Wren and I are particularly fond of berries. We have blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, loganberries, and our entire front yard is a giant crop of strawberries. Which interestingly, is yet another plant that fruits in both summer and winter. However, we adore a rather unusual type of strawberries the most, and that is the "Alpine Strawberry". It has tiny fruit, but it packs all the flavour of larger strawberries into that tiny package... so if you live in a cooler area and have a sweet tooth, and want to make the best strawberry-infused beverage, pastry, jam, etc... you definitely want to give these little nuggets of pure joy a go. If you're anything like us... they won't often make it inside... let alone into a cake. Cut up and infused in tea, the alpine strawberry makes a healthy, sweet addition to the beverage.

    Alpine strawberries must be sown in winter-like conditions. The springtime "thaw" is the threshold that triggers germination. If you plant them in spring, and there's little-to-no frost left... they will just rot away. If you're running that late, put the seeds in the freezer, for at least a few weeks, then plant them... preferably in early spring.

    Now is also a good time to start planting raspberry seeds, in trays, and keep them in the dark. They take around 3 months or so to germinate, so they need to get started in the cold weather. There are plenty of good sites online to guide your sowing and growing efforts.

    I suppose the point of this blog post is to hopefully inspire you to see your garden beyond the harvests of spring, summer, and autumn. Now is also an excellent time to start cleaning up those leaves, tidying up and preparing beds for winter and spring sowing. However, I do recommend that you do these things when the sun is out, and definitely in the warmer parts of the day.

    Happy gardening!


    Published in Gardening
    Tagged under

    Work is slow when you're short-handed... or short one arm for that matter!

    Ok, so after my close call with falling off a ladder, I actually did fall off while assisting the electrician run some wiring, and fractured my shoulder. Well... more specifically, the part of the humerus in the shoulder joint. Needless to say that involved  hospitals, doctors, X-rays, specialist advice and medical "procedures", waiting rooms, slings, with a note of interstate travel and copious amounts of pain with a side of sleep deprivation. I managed to do two job interviews in my pained-yet-manageable state. Then things got a bit interesting when it seemed things weren't healing like it should.

    So after too many weeks of being in a sling, I'm finally allowed to get rid of it. However, there's still a lot of work to do both in the garage, and in healing my arm. The bone is stable, but not fully healed, and muscles... (what's left of them) need a lot of work. But that doesn't mean I have been idle.

    Tidying up makes a much needed space to do more tidying....

    Even a one-armed lunatic such as myself isn't completely useless. I managed to pull out some frost covers for the garden, use up the bags of potting mix strewn around the garage, I also threw some boxes of long-forgotten stuff out, tidied up the wood stock, and put the finishing touches on my vacuum silencing box. Speaking of the silencing box, wow has that made a difference! I had a vacuum that screamed louder than most of my tools, and now I hear a dull hum, where most of the noise is the sound of the air rushing into the vacuum hose. Unfortunately, I still haven't integrated the cyclonic separator on a 44 gallon drum yet, but I have attached the separator to the lid, and spray painted some parts of it.

    When you can't do the work yourself, enlist helpers and professionals... to do almost anything but work on the garage.

    Apparently, Wren's fear the cold may exacerbate my shoulder pain has overcome her long-standing inertia about making the house more energy efficient. I guess there's a silver lining... of sorts.

    When Wren asked my opinion about this, my argument for this house upgrade had nothing to do with my shoulder, but more of where to put some of our hard-saved cash. We dabble in investments but in the end, we're just middle class professionals trying to get by while developing as few grey hairs as possible.

    A side note about investing:

    Investing is a very personal thing, and I am not giving you financial advice because I am not qualified to do so. If you need help, go see an accountant. Do not ever go to a financial planner that works for a bank. You do not want a "commission based" advisor, (who charges you a percentage of your investment, even when it loses money). Commission based advisors may not be bad, but there are some who get "kick backs" or benefits for encouraging people to invest in particular funds/companies, which is clearly a conflict of interest because that is not necessarily the best place to put your money.  What you do want, is a financial planner/accountant that charges by the hour. This is called "fee for service" in Australia. Arrange to meet them once a year, and if things are going well, you'll want to come back to them so adjustments can be made as needed. If things aren't going well, then you talk to them about why things aren't going so well, and if they can't fix it, you can choose to take your business elsewhere. Remember: It's your money, and you ultimately take the risk and reward. You are shopping for advice, and nothing more. You are not putting them in control (and should not, either). If you aren't comfortable, or don't understand absolutely everything, don't invest! Just walk away. If you aren't confident, or shy, or have trouble speaking for yourself, find someone you trust to consult, or even come with you. In the end, don't sign anything without getting a second opinion, or shopping around.

    Back to my rationale for upgrading the house....

    However, at the time of writing (June 2019) with record high share prices overseas, the growing concerns about recessions, even possible "corrections", give me pause on investing "large" sums  (well, large to us at least) in the current share market. Holding some back for potential opportunities coming up is something I'd recommend if you can. The down side to this level of errr... "restraint?" is the ever-lowering interest rates environment make bank accounts an-often negative return after tax and inflation. Also, after assessing our costs, we found that rising prices of gas and electricity are a major expense for us here in Canberra. Finally, considering the fact that property prices in our area is on the rise again, this makes the sale price for our home a possible future consideration. Modest upgrades to the house, (especially double glazing) can yield property price increases of 150-200% of the upgrade , and have ongoing cost reduction benefits.

    So, using these rationalizations, Wren has approved upgrading the place, and I'm and dealing with the admin... given my lack of work, I will be here when the work is done.

    Update: So where are we at now?

    After a day and a half of work for two nice labourers, have done as much as they can while politely rebuffing all my attempts to offer them tea. The double glazing is partially installed, but we're awaiting delivery of the custom cut panels to complete the remaining windows and doors. The biggest heat leaking window at the top of our light well (roughly 5.5 metres from the ground) has been completed and I must say, it hasn't looked this clean in years.

    The doors have had new seals placed around the frame work, and I am hoping that the panels come in sometime in the next few days.

    As for the insulation, our current R2.0 insulation will have the gaps filled, then R4.0 batts will be layered on top, effectively tripling our existing insulation. That's all scheduled for early next week.

    How about that garage?  It is the entire point of this post... isn't it?

    You might be wondering... "How did we get here? Isn't this supposed to be about getting the garage on track?". Yes dear reader, the point is that the garage was delayed by my injury, and it is part of our household's greater levels of rationalized insanity. We all do what we can, but never fear, I plan to build more storage for the garage, reinforce and store stuff in the garage's ceiling, oh and I'm avidly waiting the delivery of a shiny new toy for the workshop.... a bandsaw! I'll be making an industrial grade trolley for that beast.. but I have to get my welder back from my friend first.

    Then I'll not only have to start up, but catch up with my garage stuff. I sense a busy time may be coming.

    I hope you're all well, and having fun!



    Published in Wood Working
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