Saturday, April 30, 2011

Gardening for broke!

Demise of a green space
The little front yard garden took a pounding this year!
Having lost two wet season crops in a row this season I discovered the most sinister of causes... The gardeners contracted by our body corporate had poisoned all my lemon grass, basil and snake beans! I caught the guy actually applying the poison while I was off work one day and couldn't believe my eyes!

Over the past couple of years I'd had pretty decent crops of snake beans which were providing our family with some pretty regular snack food and great shade for the north facing window! Our kids had become accustomed to picking beans and basil straight from the plant and eating it on the spot. It was great to see them discerning the ripeness of beans and determining which should be eaten green or which should be saved for seed. All that had to stop when I found the gardener spraying our beans with Roundup! I was really pissed off to find these guys knowingly putting poison on plants that were obviously food, but it was devastating to know that it was my kids who could be poisoned!

Disheartened I watched our beautiful food producing plants shrivel and die within hours of being sprayed? I recalled a previous time when I'd been away for a couple of days and returned to find my healthy garden looking like it had just been napalmed! At the time I'd convinced myself it must have been a soil borne disease. At least the PawPaw in the backyard was spared!

I don't grow enough in the garden to feed the family but it is nice to have a little home grown tucker if only to remind the kids where food actually comes from... Of course we don't go hunting the tree monitors, fruit bats or frogs we find in the back yard, but a few vegetables makes a good start for becoming intimate with your food. We generally leave the wildlife to go about it's business relatively unmolested.

Food production continues
Last year during the build-up, my kids got hold of the Roselle seeds I'd been saving for some time when they should be planted (I wasn't actually sure when that should be). It was November and they'd left them soaking in the tadpole water for a couple of days. Then when the bucket was full of wrigglers (mosquito larvae) they tipped the whole lot out on a bare patch of dirt where the trampoline used to be....! What do you suppose happened?

Yep it was just the right time and conditions for planting Roselle seeds! So some time in December I noticed the sprouts and before we knew it there was a beautiful thick clump of Hibiscus sabdariffa growing in the back yard. COOL!

young Roselle bush
(Young Hibiscus sabdariffa)

So weeks rolled by and we watched the plants grow and eventually the flowers came. Beautiful! (Don't worry this story doesn't end in herbicide!)

Roselle bud
(Budding flower)

morning Roselle flower
(Yellow flower as seen early in the morning, they turn pink before falling off in the evening)

There were heaps of flowers each living for barely a day before they would fall to the ground leaving a small red calyx... as more flowers bloomed the calyxes (the Roselles) grew bigger with the ripening fruit inside...

Hibiscus sabdariffa in flower
(Bushes in full flower displaying some maturing calyx and fruit)

(Maturing calyx and fruit)

As the bushes were looking quite laden with heavy fruit and brilliant red calyxes we took off to Mataranka for a long weekend. Having just celebrated a birthday party and spent the remainder of our money on the trip away we returned with a budget deficit but discovered that the Roselle bushes had blown over in the wind due to the weight of all that fruit!

Hibiscus sabdariffa laden with fruit
(Laden bush fallen in the wind)

Well what great timing! with little food left in the cupboard what better time to pick forage in the yard! The boy and I munched on the leaves as we picked a bucket full of crimson treasure from the back yard then I sat with our eldest and separated fruit from calyx preparing for the boiling of the Jam (luckily there was sugar an apple and half a lemon just waiting to go in the pot)! Our home has become an Idlers paradise! No more trecking miles away from home, through 7 ft high grass to raid spindly ant covered bushes! We can just go and pick the fruit right in our own back yard!

Looking back in the cupboard the next day my darling wife discovered some wholemeal flower and when I got home from work we delighted in our hand made fresh bread and spiky jam! Sometimes the very best of life seems to appear just when you think the cupboard is bare!

Roselle jam and hand made bread
(The fruits of our harvest)

Thanks to the natural habit of our kids we now know the right time and conditions for planting Roselles!


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Bikes and poverty

I've been thinking a lot about bikes lately... again!
Having spent the past week crawling from bed to panadol and back to bed I am very grateful to be back on my feet (more or less) and back on my bike! What makes this even better is that just when the long-bike was about to fall apart completely my friend brought back the Avanti (The third new bike I've ever owned!) which I'd left with him about 8 months ago.... and (drum roll please assorted happy crickets and birds) The Dry Season appeared this morning as if from nowhere!

What a great day!

So, this afternoon I spent tinkering around with the kids bikes in the back yard, sipping a much longed for cup of coffee and delighting at the prospect of my eldest moving up to a larger frame. A chance encounter with a local bicycle Wizard also helped renew my enthusiasm for fixing stuff! I even dared to think about the forgotten 4 wheeled project bike I'd left squashed between the canoe and the compost bin in the darker regions of the back!

Time to clean out the bike shed and get some wheels on the road.

This evening I even managed to catch up on some of the bicycle blogs and amongst them I found this an interesting video about a bicycle project that is helping to reduce poverty.


Check out: The Bicycle City. Trailer from Greg Sucharew on Vimeo.

Since mobility is a major issue for many people I have been inspired to try and find a solution to the two halves of a 4 wheeled bike in my back yard. Let's hope something good happens with this pile of wasted bike.
There's a lady somewhere in Darwin who has a son with mobility problems who would really love to be able to get out on a bike. I promised her she could have this one if I ever got it going.... It's killing me to think it may never get there. 

The 4 wheeled contraption which I hope to resurrect