Gardening will Illness: I’d be lost without it!

My life before CRPS (Complex Regional Pain Syndrome) was mostly
different to the one I live now, however in the year before, I started a small veggie
garden and loved every part of it. Especially that summer. My favourite memory
of that garden was made of Flat breads with fresh tomatoes, spring onions and
lemon thyme. Put under the grill with some sea salt and olive oil. YUM!! Now I
am really hungry… Anyway I didn’t realise just how crucial that first garden
would be for me. Not only did it introduce me to heirloom tomatoes but it
sparked a passion that would save me in so many ways.

Nectarine and Basil Jam from my first garden. YUM!

Nectarine and Basil Jam from my first garden.

The next summer I was facing a pretty dismal future. I had survived
a massive burn injury, my beloved horse Ernie passed on (It still hurts so much)
and just when I thought I was able to move on I had my first CRPS flare that
made sense of all the strange symptoms I was having. Suddenly this thing was

spreading through my body and I was losing control. Despite it all I just naturally kept gardening.

It hasn’t been easy. I get frustrated when I can’t do things or I
do them anyway and pay the consequences later. But then I know that each time I
go out there, that that night and the next day and maybe even the day after,
will be “off days” for me. But that’s ok because it’s better than nothing and I
would probably be I pain anyway and at least I enjoyed earning it.

Artichoke that I let flower. Amazing color

Artichoke Flowers with the most amazing colour

Emotionally, my garden is my saviour. I am not sure if I
would be here now without it. It gives my head the peace and space it needs
when I am worried or feeling helpless. It gives me hope when I am having a bad
night because in the morning I will be able to hobble around my beds and just
look at what has changed since last time. It’s my distraction from the crap. As
it is on the nights of researching how to make my garlic grow better, as I am
trying to ignore how hard and painful my super cosy bed has become. I have read
articles about how a chemical in the soil can have the same effect on you as a
typical anti-depressant. I really think that they are onto something there.
Perhaps it explains why after a few days in bed I feel depressed like something
is missing. It’s my garden and I need my fix. Over the past 3 years the amount
of gardening that I have been able to do has varied, but I am always thinking,
researching and buying seeds online. What would I do without it?

Physically it is my own kind of Physical Therapy that keeps my body
going. When I had my first flare, my left hand instantly froze and I lost use
of it for a while. It was the slight and gentle movement of picking cherry
tomatoes that slowly got it moving. I know in my heart that my body has benefited
so much from being outside and in my garden. Even just pulling weeds keeps my
arms moving and stops my muscles from wasting. My left arm might not do as much
but the important thing is that it does what it can.

Cherry Tomatoes saved my hand

My Cherry Tomatoes saved my hand in 2013

So far I have refused to get raised beds. Partly because I can’t
afford them and partly because it would feel like a setback for me. It did look
at one stage that I would be in a wheelchair and they were discussed. But for
now I really don’t feel that I need them. I am hypermobile in my hips and the
one thing I can do is bend over and reach the ground. So what was once great for
yoga now allows me to get down to my plants and I am quite comfy like that for a
while. If I need to I can sit on the ground or a stool to get to my plants and
so far I have only had a couple of issues where I have fallen and needed help
getting up. It’s the heavier work where I get frustrated. I can’t do it and I
hate waiting for help. I am learning to be patient and ask for help but I am
naturally independent and I had always been strong and able to do the hard
work. That has been hard for me to swallow

I know that I am so lucky to be able to still do what I can and I
dread the day, if it comes, where I can’t garden any more. I am not sure how I
would cope. For now, I am just enjoying being out there when I can. Being sick
has made me appreciate the small things and all. I know, what a clique. Mostly its
hanging out in the garden with my girls. Gemma (dog), Molly and Moggs (Cats),

Plus all of the cool animals and insects that have moved in since I
turned the orchard organic. Through gardening I have also met other gardeners
and built a little network of people to share knowledge and spare plants with.
I really love that I can provide food for my family and friends. Especially for
my parents at home and my Mum at her Cafe. I supply her all the herbs and greens
that she uses. After all they took me in when I got sick. This is my way of
contributing and it means the world to me.

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Gemma: Top dog in my garden and she knows it!

So that’s me and my gardening with a disability. To end this post I
want to leave a quote that I think sums it all up.

“To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.”

― Audrey Hepburn

Also Posted in my other blog Attack of The CRaPS

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Grapes: Growing Cabernet Sauvignon from cuttings

I love Red Wine! Enough said really.

I don’t drink much these days and I do miss having a glass of wine in the evening. I have to be careful with what I drink, wines with sulphur don’t agree with me and since my health issues I just don’t drink as much.  I live in a wine region called the Limestone Coast in South Australia and we make great wine. So it made sense to me, to have a go at growing my own vines seeing as I have the room and some of the knowhow through my own and families time working in local vineyards.

I’m a big fan of Cabernet Sauvignon. Made well it is stunning. Made badly it’s a shocker. Luckily I have seen the good side of this grape and fallen for it. I have also had the pleasure of tasting the fruit fresh off of the vine and WOW it is good. Over winter my brother was working in our area driving machinery to prune the vines and I asked him to get me a few canes so I could try and get at least one to take.

He kindly came home with seven canes and I stuck them all into a pot and kept them well watered and SURPRISE…. They all took off and grew a good root system and then we had bud burst and they were off. So I went from wanting just one vine to go next to the white table grape we grow, to having a trellis put up and putting all seven into the ground. So now I am thinking of making a little of my own wine or just a non-alcoholic version. Why not have a go if I can. I would also like to try making Apple Cider this year, but that’s another story.

I planted each baby vine into a heap of sheep manure compost and then mulched with bean straw. The soil around the compost isn’t great. It’s more sand than soil and does not wet easy. So we will have to work on the area over time. Hopefully the roots will get down into the better soil in no time and tap into the same good ground that grows the wines that this area is known for. In a month or two when the roots take and make the plant more secure, I will start training the plant. First I will “top tie” it by running a string from the top of the cane to the first wire, then hopefully this season it will grow up the string to the wire. If so, next year I will hopefully be able to wrap the new canes to the first wire and so on. We are going for a three trellis system.

I will post as I progress with my vines. Like everything in my garden, the project has grown in size since my original idea. But, if I can get some good grapes I will be happy. It keeps it interesting anyway. Lol

Happy Gardening. xx

late DECEMBER in my garden

December is almost done and dusted and my garden is looking pretty exciting. I am starting to get tomatoes ripe on the vine. Enough to keep me happy (I sneak them past everyone else.) Herbs are in full swing and I have young pumpkins on the vine. I love this time of year, I just wish I could spend more time in the garden. There are still jobs to be done, but anything much over an hour is a very lucky thing for me at the moment. Still Id take that over nothing at all. So here are some pictures of what is interesting in my garden during December 2014

 My Purple Congo Potatoes are flowering now. I have been experimenting this year with different methods of growing Potatoes. These ones I have grown in a styrofoam box in about 3 inches of compost and covering growth with a basic pasture hay. To get extra height I cut the bottom out of another box and tied them together with zip ties. So far so good, But I have no idea if I have many potatoes to harvest yet.

My aim is to get enough to make a small batch of purple Gnocchi for my 5 year old cousin and Keep the rest for a bigger harvest next year. Iwas lucky just to get the 3 that I was able to put in this year. Online sellers were not able to send seed spuds into South Australia, so in the end I was lucky to be given some by someone who snuck their own in years ago. Im really happy to be giving these ago, and so is my little cousin.

 I planted a few types of zucchini’s this year. Black Beauty, Yellow Crookneck and Lebanese. The Black Beauty were first to be planted and have been producing for a little while now. At first things were slow as the Bee’s were not doing their job and helping with fertilisation. I’ve been doing the deed most mornings now and its turned the situation around. Although there are not that many boy flowers being produced at the moment. At least I am getting regular zucchini now. The Zucchini slice that I have been making at the cafe has been so tasty. Yum!!!

 Some of my peppers that I have scattered all over the garden. These are Californian Wonder.

 This is the first time that I have grown Artichokes. To be honest I was first inspired to about a year ago when I was in Hospital for a drug infusion. One of the nurses at the Pain Unit had brought a flower head and put it in a vase at the nurses station. I loved the colour and picked up a plant on my way home. I wasn’t sure when to pick the heads and ended up letting these ones flower. I have since done more research and put in an extra plant ready for next year. I am sure that I will always let at least one go all the way to flower. I love the electric purple colour of them.

 This is my new bed that I put in over spring. I kind of cheated a little by just laying out the border and filling it in with well composted sheep manure. I figured I would let the worms mix it all in and so far so good. Everything that I have planted is growing really well. I got the manure free from where my dad works. Luckily there is plenty more available, so I will be getting more in when I can. Unfortunately its not organic, but it is a bi-product that would only go to waste if I didn’t use it.

Youmay also be able to see the Pumpkins in the background. I’ll need to get some pictures of them to post on here.

This is my faithful helper and companion, Gemma. We rescued her from a shelter a few years ago and not long after I got sick and moved back in with my family. She has been by my side ever since. She is with my in the garden and on the bed with me on my sick days. Rescuing a dog is worth it in so many ways.

 Ok, my eggplant record is not very good. So all that I can say is that these are the healthiest and possibly the largest plants that I have grown so far. I’m into uncharted territory at the moment. I’m thinking its the sheep manure compost in the new bed, that has made the difference.

So there you have it. The highlights of my garden at the moment. I hope your all having a good summer so far. Im hoping that this will be my best season yet.

Happy gardening. xx

MULCHING: the rush before I go away.

Mulching in my garden is something that I hold off doing until the seedlings become more established and can hold their own against the swarms of earwigs that invade the garden, live under the mulch and cut anything young and tender off at round level. It seems to be the most efficient way to combat the problem. Traps barely make a dent and I just end up losing more plants than I save anyway. It’s frustrating because I then have to water more often and having to hand water everything while having a chronic health condition, it can be exhausting. But I just have to get on with it. This year my mother has been great and we do half the garden each. Our system is perfect now.

With the weather heating up over the past weeks, watering every second night hasn’t been enough. So over the weekend I made it my mission to get as much of the garden mulched as I could. I am also off to Adelaide today for three days of treatment. With the weather being warm the rest of the week, it kind of put the pressure on so that I would have a garden to come home to. I’m torn between wanting it to be cool enough for the garden to survive and warm enough for the horses to keep their rugs off at night. The horses look to get their way. Have to keep the manure makers comfy.  So on Sunday I got into it. I use Broad Bean straw that is grown locally, cutting down on its carbon foot print. It’s also cheap and I can buy it in huge bales for $40. The proceeds go to the local Hockey club and we usually need a few bales each year.

For me at the moment, I have only been able to manage between half an hour to an hour of anything physical, so I had to be smart about this. I conned whoever was around at the time to move the wheelbarrow between the bale and the garden and I got too it. I knew I would be in bed the next day anyway, so why not get as much done as possible. I managed the bulk of it and left the plots that are too young or are more likely to stay damp.  I was quite impressed with what I got done. Most of the tomatoes, the zucchinis, corn, my new grape vines, some of the older peppers and pumpkins and most of my herbs are done. Leaving my young pumpkins, cues, eggplants and peppers with bare soil. With a chance of rain over the next day or two I should be fine.  I’ll have someone check in on the younger plants and it should be fine.  Just as long as those pesky earwigs don’t get any Ideas while I am away.

At least when I get back I should be able to garden more. Yippee!!!

TOMATOES: I can’t help myself!

Every year I plant a variety of Heirloom tomatoes and enjoy a summer of yummy fresh tomatoes with an amazing array of flavours. Each year I attempt to grow a smaller variety of my very favourites and then try a few new ones to keep it interesting. This year I culled my selection down to just fourteen. I seem to have ended up miscounting or something, because I have ended up with 23 types of tomatoes. This does not include the ones that pop up out of the soil and compost from last year’s crops, forming mongrel bred varieties. I like to let a few grow just to see what I end up with.
TOMATO VARIETIES: Black Russian, Purple Russian, Black Krim, Green Zebra, Roma, San Marzano, Rams Horn, Burnley Bounty, Mortgage lifter, Money Maker, Conderosa Red, Mayan Indian and Pineapple.
CHERRIES: Green Grape, Pink Bumblebee, Honey Grape, Mini Amish, Tiny Tim, Lemon Currant, Sweetie, Black Cherry, Thai Pink Egg and Wapsipinicon Peach.

I’m really excited about my choices this year. I can’t wait to be eating colorful tomato salad, making my own sauces and chutneys. Many of my tomatoes will also end up in my Mums café, served as Bruschetta. Colourful fresh Heirloom tomatoes on garlic infused loaf, with my own basil and some quality fetta.  Yum!!!!!!!

My Favourite tomato is the Black Russian but I am always happy to find a challenger. Still there is nothing better than sliced BR on toast with cheese and basil. Yum!! Also I have become very fond of my Green Zebra’s. Last year I grew it in anew plot and it was like the vines were on steroids. We had a massive crop out of just eight plants. We found that stewed down they made the most amazing sauce base for curry and Burrito’s. Then there is the ever faithful Roma. A fantastic eating and saucing tomato. This is making me really hungry right now.

So, yes I only intended to grow 14 varieties and ended up with 23. The thing is I can’t help myself. I am always worrying that I won’t have enough and realistically, I always end up with too much and with my health being beaten by the hot weather, I really can’t keep up. But I Love it. I love growing my plants as much as I do eating the produce.

The reason I went past my 14 varieties was that our local Supported Employment Service, Grandma’s Pantry grow and sell heirlooms and sell them as part of their fundraising. The seeds all come from The Diggers Club. I find it’s a great way to try new varieties and for just Two Dollars I get a Punnet with up to 4 seedlings that are around 30cm high. How could I pass that up each time I find myself detouring past their shop? I can’t help myself really. I got my Purple Russian, Ponderosa Red, Mayan Indian, Green Grape, Pink Bumblebee, Mini Amish and Wapsipinicon Peach from this great organisation. It’s all for research, really. Some might make it to the first list next year. You never know. Lol. Ok, I’m a sucker for my tomatoes.

I have just picked my first tomato for the summer. A Black Russian as well and there is more following and I’m excited. What Varieties are you growing this year?

Happy Gardening. xx

How to D.I.Y. your own tomato ties.

Because I always go overboard with my tomatoes and plant more than I can manage, I have to tie and train a lot of plants. I don’t tie all of my plants though. Varieties like my Romas, I let spread out on the ground with some mulch to rest on. But I do tie the rest and this can result in a lot of ties.

One aim that I have in my garden is to be as self-sufficient as possible and to use the materials around me. Partly because I love the low or even zero cost of this ideal, but also the fact that I am doing a good deed for the planet makes it even more worthwhile. So like with everything in my garden, I started to research what I could use to tie my tomatoes and found that using old t-shirts made of cotton jersey was the way to go for me.

It’s simple really.

  • Get an old t-shirt and a pair of scissors and you’re ready.
  • Lay the top flat and start cutting strips across the top and across the grain of the fabric. Your strips should be 2-3cm wide.
  • Once you have cut your strip and have a loop in tour hand, cut at the seams and then again across the centre of your top (for a woman’s Lrg). You should end up with 15-20cm strips. If your top is bigger you might want to make adjustments.

Maybe instead of scissors, the roller cutter thingies that patch workers use, a cutting board and a ruler can make the job much faster, but maybe ask an experienced person to do this. I imagine it would be harder to tie your tomatoes with fingers missing. lol

To Use

  • Take a fabric tie and place it around a bare strip of the vine. Consider the strength of that bit of the vine, if and fruit will be ribbed off etc.
  • Cross the ends of the tie over each other and then around the steak. You should end up with a figure of 8.
  • I like to tie it off with a bow or something that can easily be untied. Don’t worry too much about the tie being too tight, the fabric will stretch. As long as you can fit a finger or two inside either loop of the tie. Should it become too tight, this is where the bow or easily unties knot comes in handy.
  • Tie the next one about 10-15cm up the vine.

Yes, there are many ways to tie your tomatoes, and many products and materials. This is what has suited me over the past few years.

I also picked my first tomato yesterday. A Black Russian as well. My fave.

I would love to hear what you use and how you tie your tommies.

Happy Gardening.