Sunday, 6 July 2014

Nettles & Rain


It's too early to pick the cauliflowers, broccoli & cabbages that I  planted in the Winter vegetable garden in March. The chooks have now been let into the summer vegetable garden, so apart from the Rocket & bitter greens that are growing in the other gardens, there are not many mild tasting greens for our daily smoothies. This is when I turn to the nettles again.
The health benefits of nettles are many & we use them in various ways.
Today's smoothie, enough for two; nettle leaves, an outer leaf from a half grown broccoli plant, some whey from some cheese I made last week, a spoonful of our raw honey, a banana, a good couple of dollops of my home made yoghurt & some water.  Blended in my $3 blender... Delicious, & how very simple it is to start the day with all those wonderful vitamins & nutrients?
Every August/September we take a holiday & are usually away from home for a month. When we return, the winter vegetable patch is thigh high in Nettles. I have to get in there in my rubber boots & gloves to push the nettles out of the way so I can pick the vegetables that have grown so beautifully under the care of the caretaker nettles. Not a bug or grub can be found in the vegetables & I attribute this to the diligence of the nettles.
I pick the tender nettle tops before they go to seed & lay them out on newspaper to dry in a shed. When dried the leaves can be stripped off the stems & stored in jars for making tea. I also dry some lemon grass or lemon verbena to keep in a separate jar for mixing into the teapot with the nettles for flavour. The tea is refreshing & has many health benefits.
Dried nettles can also be added to the cow's chaff at milking time for a vitamin & mineral boost.
Liquid manure made from nettles is a great tonic for all plants & so easy to make. Half fill your container, whether it be a bucket or a large barrel, depending on the size of your garden or balcony. Top up with water, cover loosely & let it sit for a few weeks to ferment. When you feel that it's ready (& a lot of gardening is about your gut feeling) dilute the nettle ferment by half with water & put it onto your plants. Both foliage & the roots will benefit from their nettle tea drink.
In  Bio-dynamics we use nettles to make Prep number 504.
I wonder if I would have been burned at the stake a few centuries ago or if it was common practice then to use Nettles & other "weeds"?
 We've had so much good winter rain I lost count last week at 120mls.  The geese are enjoying the water in the little dam & the wild ducks have returned to breed. Wild ducks aren't the pest here as they are in Victoria so we're always thrilled to count them as they return at the same time each year.

 The hay paddock is looking very healthy with a mixture of clover, oats, vetch & phalaris.  Looks like being a good harvest again this year. Enough round bales for our own use plus a few bales to carry on for the following year. Security is having a surplus of hay just in case the following year is not so good. However, never count your hay until it's in the shed!
                                Max & Tess are constantly on the lookout for foxes & feral cats.
 As Nanna would have done, the clothes airer has been in use throughout all of June. We choose not to own an electric dryer. The fire is always burning to warm the house, so it doubles as a dryer & saves lots of electricity. The solar panels on the roof generate more electricity than we use because we're frugal with our usage.  Just like many other folks, we have a line rigged up in one of the sheds for drying sheets & larger things when its wet.
The chickens have been trying to gain entry to the vegetable garden all Summer & Autumn. They couldn't believe their luck when I opened the gate & invited them in. Here they will forage until Spring time when we'll start planting up the garden again. Any earwigs hiding out will be gobbled up & the manure from the hens will add nutrition to the soil.
The two main vegetable gardens (Summer & Winter) are near to the hen shed so is only a matter of opening & closing gates to allow or prevent access whilst still having access to their shed for night time shelter & laying of eggs.  They must be happy because we're still collecting an average of a dozen eggs a day. I had always thought that hens go off the lay over winter.
I hope your chooks are laying, or if not, I hope you're able to purchase lovely eggs from happy hens.

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