31 March 2008

Work, worms and a cat

I love being able to balance out the time I have at home with my voluntary work at the neighbourhood centre. Today is the first of my three days there this week. Monday is always busy because I have to write articles for the local newspaper and have them ready before lunchtime - as well as answering phones and dealing with the people who come in. After Monday morning, it's all down hill. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I'd find such joy in voluntary work. When I retired it was one of the things I wanted to do but I didn't have a clue where I would work or what I would do. Fortune, they say, favours the brave - one day I just walked into the Centre and asked if they needed helpers. Now I run the place and do things like teach budgeting, train volunteers, talk to people who need a little help and a hundred other things. It's a wonderful place with good people and I get a lot out of being there. If you're thinking of doing some voluntary work - dive right in. You'll find real joy in being able to help and if my experience is anything to go by, it will change you in many unexpected ways.

I had a very relaxed and slow day yesterday spent outside in the garden with a little indoor work thrown in for good measure. Our cat Hettie was asleep in the bushhouse when I went in there. She's sort of caught up in a vine because she had to sleep in a corner near my orchids.

I was sorting through photos earlier and came across these three photos of our garden in 2006. I studied them for a little while because I wanted to see where we'd planted certain vegetables back then. One of the benefits I've found in blogging and taking photos of my garden is that I have this ready reference of what we did, and when. I thought I should post the three photos as I know there are a lot of gardeners getting ready for the season and these photos might help you work out a plan, or at least help you see what others are doing.

Clicking on the photos will enlarge them. In this first photo we had Chinese cabbage growing in the foreground with zucchini just behind them.

In the next bed over was a wall of green beans. I think these were French climbing beans - probably Blue Lake. On the left are a few sunflowers which we grow sometimes for the chooks, with silverbeet just in front of the beans.

And finally a bed of cos and buttercrunch lettuce, JudiB's onions (written about yesterday), celery, radishes, rhubarb chard and a young peach tree.

One of my jobs yesterday was to improve fertility in our current garden. I used a combination of worm juice (above) and worm castings. The castings were scattered around seedlings and raked in, then everything was watered with some diluted worm tea. Worms are a very frugal way of creating fertile soil for your plants. You can keep the worms going with kitchen scraps, they will multiply, so you can give them to your chooks or other gardeners, and they make the most wonderful fertiliser.

When you set your mind to it, you can create, recycle, grow and make do with so many of the things already in your home. You don't need to go to the store and buy new - what you have already at your fingertips can be used for many simple tasks. All you have to do is to work out how to use what you have in a different way, and to think creatively. Forget what advertising tells you, what you buy is usually inferior to what you can make yourself.

With this mindset I have been slowly increasing the number of avocado trees in our backyard. Below is the seed of an avocado we recently had on our salads. I sprouted the seed and soon it will be planted out. Growing from seed takes longer than buying a grafted tree, but you eventually get the same fruit. It just takes more time - and the will to do it. This is a great project for children too. The seeds sprout fairly readily and it's wonderful to watch as it grows a little every day. All you do is to fill a small jar with fresh water, poke two toothpicks into the side of the seed to help the seed stay on top of the jar. The bottom of the seed should be just touching the water. Keep it in a warm, well lit area, like a window sill. In a week or so it will sprout, a few weeks after that it will look like the seed in the photo below. When the green shoot is tall and strong and when there are well developed roots, plant it out into a pot with well draining soil. After a year or so, plant it in the garden. A grafted avocado will produce fruit in about 4 or 5 years. This way will take about ten years. It's a long term project, but a worthwhile one.

Thank you all for your comments last week. I always enjoy reading them. Let's hope this week is a good one for all of us. Take care everyone.



  1. I was just wondering if the worms had a foul smell (or I should say a tub of worms)?

  2. I too have done some community work in the past, i also found it very rewarding i really must look into doing it again

    Nice to read your blog before bed for a change i think i will dream of chooks

    Sharron in the uk

  3. Growing avocados was one of our favorite things when the children were small. We never had any fruits of course, not nearly warm enough here in Cornwall Uk but so much fun all the same.


  4. I'm planning my house move so garden planning is taking a back seat this year but still I'm hoping to at least have some tomatoes, cucs and courgettes (zuccini)as I've had a lot of success with them in previous years, and all in tubs. One thing I will plant this year is a tub of sweet peas, I love the scent of them and the more you pick the more they flower so excellent for pretty vases in the house.

  5. I tried doing that with an avocado several weeks ago and it never sprouted. Any tricks? I am not sure if they would even grow in Maine.

  6. Hi Julia, if tended properly, there is no smell associated with a worm farm or the juice.

    Sweet dreams, Sharron.

    Hi Pippa.

    I love sweet peas too, Rosie.

    Country girl, you need a warm climate for avocados.

  7. What if you planted the avocado tree in a container, kept it outside during the hot summer months and inside for the cold parts? Do you think this would work???

  8. i learn so much from you each week-thanks!

  9. As ever, I am enamored with your blog, garden, pets, writings, cooking, and crafts.

    I actually visit your blog every day but rarely comment even though I find myself inspired by each entry. Your blog is read even before I read the comments on my own blog -- just after feeding the chickens!

    Thank you for generously sharing your photos, stories, and recipes with us! Your careful documentation of the joys of simple living: whether baking bread, making soap, or digging in the earth are cause for all of us to stop to take a careful look at our own lives. Where are we headed? Are we leading a passionate and fulfilling life? When is the last time we connected in a very physical and spiritual way with our land or learned a forgotten skill?

    Bless you and thank you, Rhonda Jean, for your wisdom and your time.


  10. Aww...what a sweet looking kitty. About the avacado seeds, I had NO IDEA you could do such a thing! Thanks for posting that, I'll have to try it soon.

  11. Question:
    Do you happen to know if avocados will grow with only one plant or if you have to have two or more for cross-pollination. Just wondering....

  12. Hi Lacy, I will be visiting you when I have a bit of time tomorrow.

    Nancy, it depends on the type of avocado. Some require another tree, some self pollinate.

  13. I'm not sure, Amy. I've never grown avocados in tubs. It sounds like it would work but I can't say for sure.

  14. Hi Rhonda
    many thanks for this post , have just found out that they may not force me to sell my house due to lack of funds , so I have decided to plant a herb garden in pots(just in case lol)and also as an act of rebellion :-)
    Hope you and hanno have a good day
    Rachel Plymouth Devon England


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