Two girls fighting over one baby, an enemy is identified and killed on sight, a mutant lurking in the shadows! Am I on the set of a Hollywood movie? No, it's more exciting than that - it's my backyard where life and death meet on a daily basis and all the strangeness is real. Come with me, I'll show you ...
I've been spending some time in the garden in the early morning lately. Since Hanno had his knee operation, I've taken on his garden tasks. I like to do that early, before the sun gets too hot. So at about 5am I collect the eggs, let the girls out to free range for the day, start watering the plants and checking to see that all is as it should be. Wild geese honk as they fly over on their migratory path and realise that the pond they always relied on has been filled in by the person who lives over the back. Yet another natural place taken away by "development". It's quite, it seems like nothing much happens, but that belies the truth. It's a jungle out there!
We've been growing two types of sunflowers this season - Mexicans and giant Russians. The first of the Mexicans has flowered and I'm looking forward to the time when I can pick a bunch of them and have them inside on the kitchen table. The Giant Russians are for the chooks and wild King parrots. As soon as they see the massive yellow heads they'll send out the call and every King in the vicinity will come and feast on them.
Look carefully, a stranger approaches. These caterpillars eat into the centre of sunflowers and stop them flowering. I picked it off the leaf and squashed it under my Croc. Life and death in the vegetable garden, it's tough.
These look like ruby silverbeet but they are beetroot, from the same family. You can eat the leaves and the roots. We've been eating a lot of raw beets lately, grated with salads. I've also given some to my friend Bernadette who is using them as an organic juice.
The Marketmore cucumbers are growing well and have been fruiting for about a month. They'll soon be replaced by a follow up crop of these Lebanese cucumbers (below) that have been grown at the end of the Giant Russian sunflower rows.
There is an empty patch here that I'm sure Hanno has plans for and on the edge, a new crop of celery just starting to come up. I've been picking some of the baby celery leaves for our salads - they're crisp and tender but haven't yet developed the strong celery flavour that I love.
And what's this? A mutant! A white cucumber flower when they should all be yellow. Very interesting. I had a good look and it's the only white flower. All the others are as they should be. But it's growing a cucumber, so I'll just have to watch it and see if it's different in any other way. This is how new types are found - natural mutation. They are called sports. It may be something, it may not be. We'll wait and see.
Around the corner from the mutant, corn is growing sweet and strong. We've had a few feeds from these, have a few more to go and we have follow ups growing in the next bed. Further along this row are Chinese greens that we grow for the chooks. It's not that we don't like them, it's just that they grow faster than any other green and therefore we can keep up the supply of them for our hungry chickens.
Nestled in between the giant Russians and the Washington Navel orange, looking towards the parsley and eggplants. I harvested the first two eggplants and added them to my basket.
The first of the sweet potatoes are sprouting. Like any good Permaculture plant, they'll perform at least two roles. We'll eat them and the mass of vines they produce will help shade the chook house during the hottest summer months.
And while I stood there looking at the sweet potatoes and giving them a good soaking with the hose, a real hullabaloo broke out beside me. I had collected the eggs earlier and one of the broodies came back to find her eggs gone. She tried to take over the nest of her sister, who has been sitting on one egg for about two weeks. They both stood up, fought on the little ladder, both changed nests, then changed back again and all the time making enough noise to have me locked up. I hosed them to calm them down and they ran off. But the one who had been sitting on the one egg, soon rushed back and is still now sitting on that egg. We'll throw it away when we finally get it out from under her.