Who said we’re getting our fair share of the fruit and vegetables?
Graham R. Cooper
As you already know, fresh sawdust is down on the hen house floor and the young brassica plants are eagerly anticipating feeding on year old sawdust and chicken shit. Who said plants don’t anticipate?
June spread the stuff yesterday. We had a frame covered in chicken wire that was big enough to go over half the plants. The protective cover was needed elsewhere and they’re all tantalizingly naked now.
June’s hoping that the litter will put the possums off: chicken poop and the texture of sawdust. Guess we’ll soon find out.
Spot the difference
The frame’s now over the strawberry plants by the back door. The strawberries are starting to redden – we had the first fruits of the season on our porridge a couple of days ago. Plural, but we shared – I had one and June had one. If the blackbirds had their say, that’s all we’d get. Who said birds don’t say these things?
Sheep shit smeared on the trunks of fruit trees is suggested to deter possums – not that I’ve tried that. And sheep dung has never deterred us from eating.
I recall a Xmas Do held on a stifling hot day in a woolshed. Despite a thorough cleaning it still smelt like hundreds of sheep had recently been through – stank like they were still there and shitting – but, as is our wont, we ate our fill. Don’t get me wrong – it wasn’t along the lines of any fetishes we might own to. Makes you think twice about going to festive occasions in a woolshed, though.
“Perchance to scream” *
The broccoli plants are now vulnerable but, for the moment, they scream vigour. June reckons they’re the best she’s ever seen them this early in the growing season. Thick, long stems, a lustrous jungle green leafiness, and princely emerging crowns. Who said plants don’t scream?
“It’s said lovingly, possums” **
June’s hoping that they’ve got beyond a growth stage that a possum would find irresistibly tender and tasty. I’m hoping that the possum trap I’ll bait with a big dollop of peanut butter and set next to the plants, will be temptation enough. Who said animals don’t need delivering from temptation?
Given the choice, possums would go for the young broccoli plants and leave the brussels sprouts and cabbages alone. But with all the broccoli covered they’d decided that the other brassicas tasted pretty good anyway. Who said animals don’t have discerning tastes?
There are so many tasty treats for possums through spring and summer that it’s hard to catch them till food sources are scarce again. I have to make the most of the winter months if I want to make much of a dent in possum numbers.
Of course, it could be rabbits and/or hares doing the damage as well as possums. When it comes down to it, we just have to accept that, despite our vigilance, we’ll be sharing various crops with the wild animals and birds. The place is surrounded by farmland. Clumps of trees and bushes and mounds and hollows abound – haven heavens everywhere for all manner of wildlife. Who said wildlife don’t recognize a heaven when they see one?
All we can do is protect what we can. We inherited all bar two of our chicken netting covers from June’s dad. In old age he reduced the size of his hitherto large vegetable and berry garden, and he’d pass on covers he was no longer using. June puts them over seedlings and strawberries; we don’t have to share with the wild things anything like what we did beforehand. Who said animals aren’t into sharing?
Late spring and we have covers over:
- two strawberry beds
- silver beet
Come summer, as fruit starts to ripen, we’ll put plastic bird netting over:
- blueberries (most years, but not enough to make it worth the hassle this year)
- the cherry tree
Who said animals and birds don’t gang up on us? Animal Farm? The Birds?
The raised bed sown with carrot seed has a 40 cm high cloth wall around it to stop the carrot fly larvae from crawling into the bed. A bad infestation can blotch and groove and burrow into the healthy orange carrot to such an extent that there’s little left for us. Who said bugs aren’t into art? They colour, carve and sculpt.
June grows a year round supply of carrots and they’re kept in the ground over winter. They’ve got to see us through to late spring, so they have to be totally riddled for us to throw them in the compost bin. Cutting it out is a tedious, time consuming chore and there’s not a hell of a lot of carrot left by the time you’ve savaged it.
Dishing the dirt
Harvesting your own vegetables is a wondrous thing, but it can sure slow you down when it comes to meal preparation. When the soil’s gluggy and it clings to those parsnips, leeks, carrots, gumboots, whatever – slow mo. You can’t go inside without first washing the dirt off your hands and taking off your gumboots – slow mo. I think we’re right in there with the ‘slow food’ brigade. Who said plants don’t get down and dirty?
Having the last word
Who said: “The last word in ignorance is the man who says of an animal or plant, ‘What good is it?” *** Let’s raise our glasses to possums, blackbirds, carrot flies and the things that give poos a bad name.
*Shakes Here **Dame Edna Everage ***Aldo Leopold
That’s all on modern-day homesteading at Little Owl Gully for this week. Next Monday I’ll tell you about June’s goat milk feta cheese.
Thanks for your company. Bye for now.