Monday, October 3, 2016

New website and blog ..

Humusbeings has a new website and blog.

Blogspot has served me well and Hopefully all this will stay here. Maybe I can move it over there? I'm not sure. But, please, come and have a look at the new site. There is more about sustainability in the home as well as gardening tips and info for the dry old sands of the Swan Coastal Plain and other similar cruddy sands on the west coasts of various countries.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Worm composting and all those tiny bits of plastic that get in there.

These are a couple of our worm bins that we use to dispose of our compostable household waste. This is mostly fruit and vegetable scraps, tissues, other paper plus some weeds and lots of dry stuff from the bannah grass we have growing to protect us from the south west wind and afternoon sun.

We prefer this style of worm farming as they can escape the heat or cold if they need to, which they're unable to do in the high rise type set-ups. We're lucky to have somewhere to do this.
The first one is a stack of tyres, piled so they don't have gaps for rodents to enter. It is next to a dwarf almond, which should benefit from it's wormy friends.

Even though I forgot to start this pile with worms, they have managed to get in there and I saw a couple of them near the surface. The yellow stuff is corn meal. We weren't going to eat it and it is a bit alkaline, I think, so the worms like it. Sometimes I throw some garden lime in to balance the pH if it gets too soggy and damp. Finely ground eggshell is also good to add for calcium.
The bannah grass and Acacia leaves make great compost (but we just killed the Acacia, oh well).

This Dalek looking Gedye bin was found somewhere with no lid. This lid is from a Webber cooker, which there are often many of at verge side collections.. It works well as a worm cover as the moisture falls back in. The worms get up around the edge of the bin and lurk about.

 Worms. This is under the Webber lid from the Dalek bin above. We've stopped adding foodscraps to it now, just manky water once in a while, so they can finish it off and then we can empty that one.

Pulling apart the bin is a bit of a progression in that it takes a few goes to get there. If you don't mind cockroaches you can maybe go quicker.
The top layers tend to harbour cockroaches. I let them escape and leave the lid off so that the worms can retreat into the dark. That's when I take a few bucketfuls of the worm goodies and spread them around or put them somewhere out of the sun and rain. Once you expose worms, leave it again for a few hours/days. Then you can collect some more. It gives a few things a chance to move out before you take their home away.
As I rolled the tyres around big clods of worm poo was falling out.. fertilising on the go!! The tyres are going to be moved to a new spot in our front garden to help the hedge grow faster.
This one has lots of roots in it. I'm guessing asparagus, but not sure yet. Have to keep digging.

This is the lower part of the worm bin, it is drier and a bit more aged. Even if the nutrients are gone, this adds humus and structure to the soil when it is added. As you can also see, we eat a bit of chicken. One weird phenomena with these loooong time composts is that as you get closer to the bottom, more and more concentrated layers appear.. eggshells, bits of plastic, some still totally readable and brightly coloured. And allllll the bones.. I did put a dead raven in here at one point.. didn't manage to come across it's skull though in my unruly vermicompost digging.

Now This is the point of my post. All the bits of plastic. Some of these things are obviously plastic but some of the labels are a bit of a surprise. Still shiny and readable. 
Good to see no teabags or the crinkly plastic bags that we were buying salad leaves in for a while. 

This is maybe 5-7 years worth of stuff we have added in to this pile. It's still a bit of a shock though, some of the things that went in there. Only one teaspoon though and no other cutlery, so that's good.
It adds a fair bit of time to having to sort it out though and these little bits of plastic and bones are fiddly to have to pick out. We have a sieve (plastic plant tray with big holes) to help get some of the bones out.

This is not a worm egg. It's a worm poo egg. This shows why it is good to crush eggshells before putting them in. If you rinse the shells when you use them they crush easier when dry and can be pulverised in a blender. 

 Look at that lovely texture.. waters in beautifully and is readily used by the soil critters and plants.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Edible Umbelliferae - seedlings.

Umbelliferaceae is quite a varied family of plants. Many are edible, some are violently toxic and many are ornamental. They also provide wonderful nectar and pollen for beneficial insects, that like to land on the umbels of flowers for a feed and a rest.

When they are young, it can be a bit difficult to tell which seedling is which. I happen to have a few at the moment so here are a few pictures to help. 

Of course, if you can't tell, then have a little nibble.

Dill. Fine leaves, not as fine as fennel.

Dill. A slightly more dull green.

Carrot - wider than dill or fennel, pointed tips on each bit of the leaf.

Carrots. Quite pointy at the tips

Celery. Rounder ends to leaf tips than parsley. Stems are flatter too, even at this young stage.

Flat leaf/Italian parsley. Leaf tips are slightly more divied than the celery leaf.

Florence fennel/bulb fennel. See the tiny bulb developing on this seedling.

Fennel foliage. Very fine, tends to droop a little.

Coriander. More obvious leaf venation and larger surface area undivided.

Chervil. Very fine leaf and very divided. Larger gaps between the three leaflets than coriander or parsley.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Permaculture tales: Trees too big for backyards.

Our little sanctuary on the hill has been rented by us for almost 20 years..  in that time we have planted a LOT of different plants, including a LOT of different trees. Most were Acacias, so they came and went fairly easily, mulched or turned into firewood.

Then there were the two large, deciduous trees we planted early on when we moved in. Paulownia and Gleditsia are both excellent trees with many uses. Beautiful shade and flowers and the leaves drop, letting in winter sun and feeding the soil, but wow, did they get big quick!

After a few years of way too much shade and the trees stealing all the water from our vegetable patch came the realisation that they had to go.  We knew there would be issues with suckering so had that to look forward to for at least a year before it stops trying to fill the entire garden with itself. The Paulownia can also sucker but seemed less likely to cause problems.

We invited a friend to come and cut them down for us. He had some chainsaws he had found at the swap meet and fixed so was keen to test them.

Once we had the stump of the honey locust (Gleditsia) we decided to try a tactic someone had suggested for killing off a suckering tree.

The idea is to cover the stump with charcoal and let it burn as far down as you can. Normally more likely done with dry stumps but we wantted to mess it up as much as we could without using herbicide (that comes later).

Fresh Gleditsia stump
Cutting a grid to leat heat in.
The grid
BBQ coals
These things burnt for hours.
Next morning after fire.
Still lots there. Not sure if it really did much.

Then there were the suckers that came up everywhere. Some we chopped, easy ones we pulled. Difficult or thick ones I cut and dabbed with glyphosate, using it for it's best use, precision application. 
Not all over crops.

Suckering suckerers
Little suckers.

About a year later.

Fungi on the stump.
Not looking too happy.

There are now three different kinds of fungus growing on the stump, starting to decompose it.

Now we wait and see what it does next spring and summer, see if they pop up anywhere unexpected.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Two greyhounds = less lawn.

Summer is over.. I can crawl back outside and be in the garden without feeling ill from overheating! Hooray.

Leucaena seeds gathered by rain.
I have been pruning things to let more sun in, gathering awkward greenwste for the quarterly collection, an excuse to remove a large but ugly Acacia saligna from the front yard. But now I have to  try and fill the gap, see the wonky fence pic below.

Trying to hide the road.
 A bit of fruit has managed to happen in the garden and some useful herbs, such as basil and mint survived summer.

Tiny happy mandarine shrub.
We also adopted a second greyhound after fostering her for a month or so. Which means I am trying to move the garden edges out further to allow the dogs room to run around and just for a change of space when looking out the window.

Spot the houndie.
 Ziggy loves a good dig in a sand pit.  Ziggy the digging greyhound

Prostrate rosemary.
While many of the pests have gone since the removal of the honey locust and powton trees the rodents are still around. We found a couple of dead ones when we came home from a trip away. I have also tried to remove many of their hidy holes in the garden, but they still get in our roof.

Rodents have eaten the kale.
There is lots more room without the two trees. They made wonderful summer shade but were sucking the useful garden area dry and casting too much shade. The honey locust has been suckering a lot though, so we had to use judicious amounts of glyphosate for spot treatment. It will be an ongoing effort, but that's why we did it now, rather than if we ever get kicked out of here.

Ziggy the greyhound. 
In some cases we have finally started to plant some of the potted plants into the ground. They won't be happy in pots anyway, so we may as well plant them and see what happens.
Moringa planted in the ground. Will it make it?
It's been handy having tough plants and only a few plants to keep alive over summer. The most useful have made it through.

It'd be good if it rained some more, though...