Garden tails, er…. tales

Winter is coming. There’s a bite in the air of a morning and the animals at our place are preoccupied with food. This autumn has seen an extended growing season with plenty of produce still available until about a week ago due to milder conditions. The May Produce Exchange saw plenty of tomatoes and the quince basket seemed bottomless. Salad greens, silver beet and chillis were abundant, as were some eggplant and capsicums. The roses are still blooming and beautiful bunches were passed around. And we were blessed to have a local honey producer bring in some golden jars! I’ve been out in the garden planting winter veg seed in recent weeks and noticed it’s not only our resident four-legged hairy one who is completely preoccupied with eating. The birds have gone mad for the fruit we have left on the trees. Some apples were burnt this year on the hot days we had – so we left them hang. Now the rosellas, black birds, galahs and cockys are into them. One has to be mindful walking out our back door, for under the quince tree is now a battlefield with a broad field of fire. The gun crews above (cockys) are busy loading the giant quinces nobody else could reach and bombing away after taking the choicest bites! The smallest four-legged hairy residents attempted a staged invasion of my pantry last week. The brown dog is getting a bit wobbly and his eyesight isn’t what it used to be – so I have given him leave from mousing duties and resorted to traps. I know of one couple in town who actually keep a tally on the panty door: Humans vs Rodents. The smartest mice at our place live in the compost heap and don’t have to contend with biscuit-mad dogs or traps. We’re well behaved composters – we don’t put meat or bone into the heap – but we get mice. (and for one heart stopping moment last summer when turning the pile we had mice AND brown snake! Maybe mice aren’t that smart after all..) The other visitor to the compost heap is Mother Possum. Next door usually leaves something out for her – but nothing compares to avocado skins from the compost on the possum dietary scale. I’ve seen them completely licked clean. When I catch her in the act of chucking them just anywhere after finishing, we’ll be having words. All the spiders have moved inside. I wouldn’t mention it, but ALL of them have moved inside and there are so many this year – the huntsmen are big enough to vote (lucky they don’t live in England, huh?) The willy-wag-tails were flitting about our bonfire pile last week cleaning up anything crispy that had crawled out and to top it all off the juvenile blue wrens have decided that the mirrors of my (once clean) car are enemy males that need to be run off. Or they have serious ablution responses when preening! To me, all this activity heralds the approaching winter and sparser food opportunities. My lines of carrot seed haven’t taken yet – and this is the second time I’ve planted. The soil is still warm, watered and I’ve got the seven-year-old on the sieve so now even HE extols the virtues of a fine tithe when planting carrot seed! But nothing yet.. That’s the thing about food gardening, it’s not only the four legged, tailed variety of residents that should be careful about the coming months and empty stomachs. If we were dependant on our veggie patch to tide us over until next spring – we’d be in trouble. The old ways of knowing the seasons and when to plant to avoid feast or famine are leaving us….even with a neighbour who has developed a Fowlers Vicola jar fetish, we still wouldn’t have enough preserves to see us through. Thank goodness for the IGA! Next Produce Exchange will be held under The Red Store veranda on Saturday 5th June. Liz Bell 54 76 2380

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