Peas: Harvesting, Cooking & Eating

Peas: Harvesting, Cooking & Eating

It’s spring and spring means peas! Lots of peas! I planted two crops of “Telephone Peas” but nearly half if them turned out to be snow peas! Luckily I planted as many as I did because we’re still getting plenty!  

  
The peas are grown on a trellis made with wire mesh and tomato stakes. This gives them support with the option of tying more mesh, fencing wire or string between the stakes to keep the trellis going higher. One of the pea crops has grown well over 7ft high but unfortunately recent winds have bought it back down below 6ft.

We harvest peas as we need them, trying to be careful not to let them grow too fat and woody but also trying not to store too many in the fridge. Today, however, the recent warm weather has bought on a flourish of peas and we managed to harvest 2.2kg in one go!   

  
Our kids love eating peas raw and just picking them off the bush while playing in the backyard. But, typically we simply blanche them quickly in the hot water or add them raw into a salad. But one of the nicest ways we have eaten our peas is in fresh summer pasta. 

Making a lovely white sauce we simply toss the pasta with a few fesh peas and some bits of crispy bacon and some torn up mint leaves. The heat from the pasta and sauce cooks the peas just enough while serving! Beautiful! 

But I still reckon my girls are right… straight off the bush is best!   

Backyard Chickens: Candling Eggs

Backyard Chickens: Candling Eggs

So you’ve got chooks and a rooster and you want some chicks. But how do you know if the rooster is doing his job? 

The way to check eggs to see if they are fertile is called “candling”. Candling involves putting a bright light behind the eggs to see what is inside. It’s really easy to do and great to see if you’ve got chicks. 

 
There are some particular detailed signs to look for at all stages of growth inside the egg, but at the later stages of development it is very easy. It is as simple as looking for a part inside the egg where light does not pass through. A growing fetus will be opaque while the reminder of the egg white and yolk will be translucent. 

      

The image above is around 10-12 days since fertilisation. A egg will normally take around 18 days to hatch. 

Urban Farming: Tools & Tool Maintenance

Urban Farming: Tools & Tool Maintenance

In order to garden your patch effectively, you’re going to need to have a few good tools. Not heaps, unless you need particular tools for particular jobs, just a few good ones. I’ve fallen into the trap in the past of buying cheap (I’ll blame starting out as a poor university student for that), but they end up costing you more and aren’t as enjoyable to use in the garden. You don’t need the absolute most expensive hand crafted artisan tool, but generally speaking, a good quality tool will set you a reasonable amount of cash.

So what do you need? A basic tool shed for a veggie patch will need a few essentials and you can bulk out your tool kit as you see a tool that will fit your needs. Overall, you can make do with a digging folk, a long handled shovel, a spade, a steel-tine rake, a hoe, a hand trowel, secateurs and a pruning saw. There are plenty more tools out there, but if you have a few good quality tools like these, you’ll probably do alright.

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Taking care of what ever tools you have is a must. And honestly, I probably don’t take care of mine as well as I should. But here are a few simple tips to make your tools last the journey.

It is important to clean your tools regularly. Built up dirt, mud, let alone fertilizers and chemicals (if you happen to use them) will corrode away any tools. Wash your digging tools regularly and give them a quick, light scrub with a wire or stiff bristle brush every so often.

To keep your digging tools sharp and rust free, I like to run a file over the ends a few times and coat with a film of engine oil to protect from rust. I try and do this one or twice a year. Some people like to store or clean their digging tools in a bucket of coarse sand mixed with a small amount of engine oil. Running the tools in and out of the sand cleans them and oils them protecting them from rust.

A couple of times a year I try and clean up the wooden handles of some of my tools. Frequent use, or if I have happened to leave them out in the weather, makes the wooden handles rough and subject to damage. I like to quickly give them a light sand and an oil twice a year. You can use vegetable oil or linseed oil on the handles – I’ve even been told used sump oil is fine. The oil protects the wood and makes it much more enjoyable to use.

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Cutting tools should be cleaned after every use to avoid spreading any diseases between plants. Make sure the cutting blade is sharp to avoid damaging the plant. The moving parts of tools like clippers and secateurs need to be oiled and even taken apart regularly to be cleaned and keep free of dirt and grime.

None of these things take a awful long time to do and if you have spent decent money on quality tools you love using, you won’t mind spending a bit of time keeping them in tip top shape.

Urban Farming: Dealing With Pests

Urban Farming: Dealing With Pests

Last summer was our first at our new rental. We built the chook run in a back corner, where the remnants of an old run was, using the parts of our previous run bought over when we moved. Inside the new chook run were two fruit trees – a beautiful big fig tree and a small, but rather healthy looking nectarine.

What we learnt from our first season here was that sparrows and blackbirds loved both the chook run and the fruit trees.


Now this isn’t rocket-science. We have always had fruit trees, we’ve always had chooks and we’ve always had issues with birds. But never like this! It wasn’t uncommon to see 30 or 40 birds eating the chook feed, polluting their water, getting stuck in the bird netting covering the trees and damaging the fruit.

We managed a good harvest of figs despite the birds, but the pollution of the chook run and general pest that they are meant I needed to do something.


After giving all the trees in the chook run a good haircut we set about enclosing the run with commercial grade fruit netting. It will keep the birds out but is gentle enough that the fruit trees can grow and not be damaged by wire.

The method of enclosing the run is simple – using some lengths of timber secrets across the yard, the commercial grade bird netting is simply screwed down and pulled tight forming a ceiling. There are a few gaps to plug and patch but in relatively quick time it is sealed up.

I have to give a massive shout out to my Father in Law Graeme who came over and finished off the job for me! Without his help it would have remained a half finished job for some time no doubt!

The fig tree is just budding now so time will tell if this method works to save both the chooks and the fruit!

– Jono