The days are lengthening, which means July saw the change from true winter, with its frosts and even occasional snow, to what I call “first spring”. That’s the season recognised in the six-season indigenous calendar by the wattle blooming and the birds going a bit nuts. The mulch-obsessed blackbirds are starting to rip up my garden again, and though I’ll be infuriated by them soon enough, right now I’m glad of the signs of impending warmth.
At the end of last month, just after I’d made my monthly roundup post, my friend Maia came back to Melbourne (she’s been working overseas) and managed to get up this way for a day’s mushrooming. She brought two friends, one of whom is a professional mycologist – bonus! We gathered a lot of saffron milkcaps, and learned a lot about other kinds of fungus.
One of the other fungi we saw was the turkey-tail fungus, which is used in herbal medicine as an immune booster. I brought some home and made an attempt to propagate it onto the fungus-friendly stump in my backyard (seen above with snow on it), so I guess we’ll see next year if that worked.
In the garden, though it’s been cold, there’s been lots to do. I bartered some website work for three fruit trees – a fig, an apple, and a pear – so I had to dig three big holes. Luckily my soil is soft and easy to dig. Then just when I thought I was finished, I went to the nursery and bought another fruit tree and a “rugosa” rose which is a kind that has fantastic rosehips. And then the next day I got yet another rose bush (“mystery rose, probably climbing” said the label) from the Food Is Free Laneway. All in all, six holes to dig!
I’ve had lots of help, though. Sheree from my pub craft night and her kids came by a couple of weeks ago and helped me mulch and clean up pots of raggedy mint, transplanting a lot of cuttings into small pots, most of which I’ll give away once they’re up and going. I don’t think of myself as being much into kids but I really enjoyed having these ones around, doing something fun and educational – perhaps I’m just better with kids when we have a structured activity?
Another friend from craft night came by for a seed-planting session, and the results are now sprouting in the greenhouse. And yet another friend who stayed the weekend helped me enact violence on the trees and ivy down the back of the yard, to start getting things in order for the chooks that should be arriving later in the spring.
The best thing about having people to garden with is that it inspires me to get off my bum, rather than just cosying up indoors near the heater. Also inspiring: my next door neighbour saw this blog and realised we had more in common than she knew. We got chatting and wound up planning to get chooks together, and to coordinate our veggie gardening between our two backyards this summer. You can see our sketched plan below: she’ll be growing all our potatoes, and I’ll be growing all the pumpkins, as I have more room. We’ll also be raising vast numbers of tomato seedlings through the spring and selling them at a garage sale just before the planting-out date – I reckon we’ll make a killing.
Also, with spring on its way, I couldn’t resist ordering seeds. I have too many already, of course, but that didn’t stop me. I bought lots of things for bees and other pollinators and beneficial insects. (I might also be getting bees this spring. It’s all systems go here this year!)
In the kitchen, thing were happening at a cracking pace. I rented out my spare room for the month (yay!) to a teacher just back from a stint overseas. Two people in the house made it far more worthwhile to cook proper dinners most nights. July’s fare ranged from veggie lasagnes to kim chi stews – if you’re interested in the recipe for the latter, it’s in the archive of my Tinyletter (to which you really should subscribe, as it gets lots of ephemeral bits and pieces that don’t make it to the blog.)
Other highlights: the end of canning season, as I processed the last of the quinces and apples and put the Fowlers away until December – my pantry’s as full as it’s likely to be for now. And I published this sourdough guide and gave away several copies along with batches of starter to people from around Ballarat. I also got hold of some milk kefir grains, but more of that next month.
In the crafting stakes, I’ve been kind of rubbish at finishing things, but I did manage to cast off this jumper based on Joji Locatelli’s “Boxy” pattern – except in a warm 12 ply alpaca blend. It’s been getting lots of wear out in the garden over the last couple of weekends!
And that’s about it for July! One final note: my spare room’s available again from August 13th, so if you knowssomeone looking for a short or medium term place in a low-impact, veggie-growing, community-engaged, diy-making-stuff sort of house in central Ballarat, send them my way.