Shadehouse Stage 2

Over the last few weeks we have been working on finishing a long running project – the second stage of the shadehouse. This part runs along the back of the house, a thin strip of shade against the back verandah, shading the house from the afternoon sun. The garden bed within is the ‘kitchen garden’ for herbs and salad greens. Half of this area (to the west of the back door) has been in use from the start with the first attempt at a roof on it but it needed desperately to be upgraded to the new, far more successful method. A few months ago I had taken down the old roof and put up the frame for the new one over that side and also the next section over the unfinished garden bed on the other side of the back door. I drilled all the holes for the wire but then the tank came up so I had to move on to that and leave the shadehouse for another day.

A couple of weeks ago though we had a visit from a family of WWOOFers and as they were only going to be here for a couple of days we decided that the shadehouse roof would be a good project to work on. They put up most of the wire structure and re-hung the two western bamboo sections before they moved on and then I was able to finish it in the following weeks. The rest of the wire went up and then the shadecloth stretched over as tightly as possible before being sown to the edge wire. I hung the bamboo section on the east of the back door and then made the gate from some mesh and more bamboo. 

With the addition of a couple of small barriers to discourage the guinea fowl until the fence for the house yard is finished it has made the whole shadehouse pretty much poultry proof which means we could finally take down the low fence that had run along the edge of the verandah, opening up the space – it’s so much better!

We’ve also been able to finish building up the soil in one end of the eastern garden bed and I’ve planted it with some tansy and mini red cabbages which is exciting – new garden!

Shadehouse 2 (1) Shadehouse 2 (2) Shadehouse 2 (3)

Shadehouse 2 (4)

Now the shadehouse is at the point where it’s done until we can shift the tank at the end to put on the second half of the eastern bed, but that’s a tiny part compared to the rest and we’ve finally got a properly shaded house for more than two thirds of the back wall. I can’t wait to see the difference it makes when the warm weather gets here – it’s already lovely to sit on the verandah in the afternoon without being blinded by the sun 🙂

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Achievement Unlocked: From Scratch BBQ Sauce

Anyone who knows Noven, knows that a good BBQ sauce must reside in our home. For some time I’ve had a very tasty recipe which was satisfactory in every way excepting that its ingredient list included bought sauces (ketchup and smoky BBQ). It somehow seemed to defeat the purpose of making our own sauce when we had to buy bottles from the shop to make it…

This year we have had a glut of tomatoes, so it made sense to start to experiment with making it from scratch. I had one failed attempt due to not having some of the (it turns out, vital) ingredients. The sauce was nice enough, but it was not BBQ, more like curry so I resolved to get the missing elements next time I was in Adelaide, and try again.

Yesterday we did a bit of a spring clean of the shadehouse and finally removed 3 of the 4 remaining tomato plants and picked all the fruit off of them. We were left with a large bowl of ripe fruit and a small box of green ones that might be turned into a green tomato chutney if I get adventurous. Today, I used all of the ripe fruits and made a new batch of sauce with all of the ingredients available. Initial taste tests suggest success, although a batch with added chilli has already been requested. It’s truly an amazing feeling to make a sauce from fruits out of your own garden 🙂

BBQ Sauce

Sweet and Tangy BBQ Sauce (adapted from a recipe found on yummly.com)

  • 1/2 tblspn olive oil
  • 1/4 onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 tspn cumin (will put in less next time)
  • 8 oz tomato puree
  • 2 tblspn brown sugar
  • 1 tblspn cider vinegar
  • 1 tblspn molasses
  • 2 tspn Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tspn mustard (I had French)
  • 1 tspn salt
  • 1 tspn liquid smoke

I started with all the ripe tomatoes and cut them in quarters or halves depending on their size then put them on medium-high heat to cook and reduce the liquid until they were of a sauce like consistency. I passed them through a sieve to remove the seeds and skins and then weighed the resulting puree. It turned out I had enough to make 4 times the recipe so the maths for the ingredients was easy.

Saute the onions in the oil in your sauce pan and then when they are transparent, add the garlic. Cook for a couple of minutes more then add all the rest of the ingredients and cook until thickened to your liking. Puree with a stick blender to smooth out the onions/garlic and bottle immediately in clean bottles with resealable lids.

 

 

Summer Bounty

Even though we had a very hot summer, as soon as the temperatures started to drop the veggie garden in the shade house took off for a late but sustained productive burst. The hard work getting the structure of the area right is starting to show results, and what results!

Shadehouse Summer 2014 1

Shadehouse Summer 2014 2

 

So this summer we came one step closer to our goal with a glut of tomatoes, cucumbers and chilli and a goodly number of eggplant, sweet potato, pumpkin, zucchini and squash. Of course there is still much to learn and the rampant tomato plants choked out rhubarb, asparagus and countless other smaller species so some location specific changes will come next year. Its a fantastic feeling to see the desert so verdant though… even if in a small, well controlled area… hopefully its a sign of the future to come!

WWOOFers!

In November 2012, just over a year after we had moved home, we hosted our first WWOOFers. the Willing Workers On Organic Farms (WWOOF) program is an Australian creation (although it has spread far and wide now) where travellers can visit with hosts in their home, and in return for some work they receive accommodation and meals. In country areas work carried out often allows the traveller to count the days towards their Second Working Holiday Visa which requires 88 days work in a rural area. For us (and many hosts) it provides invaluable help.

My husband runs an IT business which finances our lives so he is working on that a lot of the time and with a young son, I find that to be productive on the gardens and general renovations can be quite difficult. This means that WWOOFers are especially appreciated! Our first couple were fantastic! They stayed for 9 weeks and even house-sitting for three of those weeks while we travelled to Brisbane for a family Festive Season which makes a big difference in the height of summer – without someone around to look after the plants and animals we would not be able to travel much at all in the hot weather.

While these first WWOOFers were here we did a lot of work with Slate – finishing the shade house floor, the woodheap floor and getting about a third of the entertaining area done. We also worked a bit on some stone masonry for the outdoor kitchen and they made our first cobblestone path… inspiring many more paths to come.

We said goodbye to those first travelling friends in January 2013 but we’ve stayed in contact with them and hopefully they will both be back to visit sometime in the future!

The First Year

During the first year we did a lot of basic planning and I started learning how to build things and grow things. I had had some successful vegetable gardens in the past but that’s a bit different from attempting to set up 2 acres of arid land permaculture gardens with view to self-sufficiency…

111102 Gazebo (2) (800x600)

My brother came up for a couple of month or so and started some of the stone masonary for the outdoor kitchen/dining area but we couldn’t keep paying him at that point and of course he couldn’t stay for free so I moved on to other tasks111102 Shadehouse (800x600)

I started to build the shadehouse for the vegetable garden – this is vital out here with our hot summers so it was important to get it up as soon as I could. Using the bamboo on the walls has proven to be a fantastic solution for our high winds – they let the wind though without bending the structure too much.  We also removed the old mostly broken clothesline soon after the photo to the right was taken

The summer v111220 First Harvest (600x800)egetable garden was the most productive I’d ever had at that point confirming my thoughts about the necessity of shade. We didn’t have much water, or a pump down the well, so the garden had to be very small but it was still lovely to have so much vibrant green just outside the back door.111220 Chickens (800x600)

We also got our first chickens – day old barred plymouth rock chicks. It was another set of skills again, learning to care for the tiny things. They grew very quickly though so it wasn’t long before they were living in a makeshift yard built off an old goat pen.

120926 Chook Yard (2) (598x800)

Later in the year, after losing those first chickens to a fox 😦 I started to build a more permanent yard for them out of recycled materials that were found on the block. I learned during that process that while it is all well and good to use recycled materials, sometimes it is not worth it for the frustration and structural instability of less than fantastic quality. The yard was a definite 120621 Play Area (2) (800x598)improvement though! We also added an English Staffy to our family to help with fox deterrence. Happily, so far we have had no further problems.

That year I also started to build a play area for our son in hopes that in time he would be able to play somewhat unsupervised while I was working nearby – hoping to increase my productivity, but also because, who doesn’t want a sandpit made out of old tyres, in the shape of a stegosaurus?

All in all, I didn’t get as much done in that year as I had sort of expected when I started, but partly that was due to the small one, partly due to my learning process and partly due to unrealistic expectations. Still much to be done!