Saturday, 24 January 2015

Rhubarb 2014-2015

The last garden bed I grew rhubarb in, grew two great crops.  Large luscious leaves both times.  The first time it rained hard, they sat in the water which pooled around their bed for days on end, and the leaves and stalks wilted.  They they grew back, and the second time the chickens accidentally sampled a leaf and decided they loved it.  Just like that, the rhubarb had leaves one day, and none the next.  The stalks wilted before I could harvest them.

Last year, I broke up the crowns and planted them out in a hugelkultur bed alongside the water race, fenced along the front and sides with chicken netting.  They didn't grow for ages, well into Spring.  Along the way I wondered whether my choice to lay old wood under the bed was hindering their growth, and the chickens worked out how to walk around the back and in, to scratch the bed out.  I fenced the back, and left it.  No watering, except for watering it in.

Now it's looking lush.  If it rains, the water will drain off into the water race.  One of the stalks was broken, so I picked it and offered the leaves to the chickens.  They may be stupid, but they are great at recognising things they like eating.

They've taken to drinking from the water race, rather than the water I put out for them with vinegar and minced garlic cloves in.  "Internet advice" has it that the rhubarb leaves will kill worms in their stomachs, probably randomly inspired by the fact that the leaves are poisonous to us humans.  I'd love to know for sure, as otherwise I'd probably make rhubarb leaf tea out of them, as a fertiliser.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Bad internet advice #1 - Hang shiny objects, they scare birds

Whenever I read some forum, I see something like "I heard.." or "What you should do is.."  Unfortunately, it's common where "I tried this and it worked.." isn't so much.

One piece of "internet expert" advice I tried, was hanging shiny objects from my chicken coop in order to scare the birds away, so that they wouldn't share the chicken feed.  So I dug out several old CDs that were of no value, and hung them from the corners of the coop.

Big mistake!

Where before only small sparrows flocked to the chicken feed, suddenly black birds (starlings?) and magpies were coming, attracted by the shinyness.    I wish I had taken a picture.  Yes, they shine and sparkle - you can see them glinting better from the distance than from where I took the picture, like the far telephone lines in the back of the photo above.

What a shockingly bad piece of internet advice!  I doubt there's anyone out there who does this and actually goes around recommending it.  I suspect it was created and  perpetuated by the "internet experts".

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Opium poppy seed harvest

This year, the opium poppies I planted didn't come up.  I suspect the chickens scratched over the beds where I scattered the seeds, and destroyed any germinating seeds before they had a chance to come up.  Luckily, the ones I left to their own devices last year self-seeded.

Poppies growing in wheelbarrow last year:

Self-seeded seedlings coming up in October 2014:

Live poppy straws and seed heads, after flowers petals have dropped, late December 2014:

Dead poppy straws and seed heads January 2015 that remain after my occasional harvest:

Harvested poppy seed heads, pre-seed removal.

Final poppy seed "crop":

All in all, harvesting maybe 50 seed heads, I ended up with a hefty bag of poppy seeds weighing in as shown, at 105 grams.  Removing the seeds from the seed heads is a matter of holding the straw ends and simply upending them and shaking them over a container.  If I had to harvest them on a larger scale, I'd simply get a supermaket bag, turf the cut heads into it, give it a good shake and then pull out the heads one by one making sure all were empty.

Buying them in the Greggs boxes at the supermarket, you purchase them at $2.29NZ / 40 grams.  So, at supermarket rates of 0.57c / 10 grams, my seeds would cost $6 NZ.

I invested no time at all in growing these poppies, and perhaps less than 5 minutes harvesting the seeds.  The only problem might be if they spread throughout your garden, but there are worse problems to have.  What I should have done differently is tagged the plants with the red petals, and save the seeds from those to sow for next year.