April has been a tough gardeners month here at Kotare Village. We had our first frost in March and then in mid April had several killers. Even our winter brassicas and many other winter veges were set back seriously. I’ve been away as well so I’m behind with getting my garden all put down for the winter. Today we finished taking out all of the corn stalks, that is a mission because I grow Bloody Butcher corn especially for the carbon the stalks sequester. It is the tallest corn I know and the stalks contain high levels of lignins as well so ensure I have high quality ingredients for my compost heaps. I made a compost heap today that was 1.6 m wide, a round heap, and 1.5m high. Because I made the heap with a 60:1 carbon nitrogen ratio so that should give me a high return of high quality humus. I should get over 1 cubic metre of high quality humus, enough to put 1cm on 100 sq m of garden bed. I t looks as though I have enough material to make another heap the same size so that will just give me enough compost in Spring to compost the entire area at 1cm. As my soil gets better and better the beds will produce more carbon and I will be able to make more compost, which means I’ll be able to put more on. How well we grow our compost crops is a key factor in being able to grow soil and nutrient dense food. Getting maximum weight of carbon from our carbon crops is quite a challenge, and Leòn my Garden Apprentice has a just been down to visit Jodi, an ex apprentice of mine from many years ago, to see how he is practicing Biointensive growing in Taranaki. Jodi went to study with John Jeavons during his apprenticeship with Koanga in Kaiwaka, and he has been back there several times now. (Jodi is teaching our 3 day Bio- Intensive workshop here in September) Leòn has come back with some great ideas so I’m going to write that up as a carbon crop article in the next newsletter. By then we will have followed Jodi’s instructions on many of our own beds.
As well as having the satisfaction of having made a beautiful compost heap this morning I also had an afternoon of processing seeds that are for eating. I shucked 50 kgs of Bloody Butcher Corn off the cobs for storing. This is the corn we still have left from last years crop which has turned out to have produced 1.2 kgs of dry corn er sq m of garden bed. This corn was left on its cobs because that is supposed to be the easiest way to store it that keeps the weevils out. There were absolutely no weevils after 1 year of storage on the cobs in onions sacks hanging up, but once the mice found it (recently) the weevils got into it. That’s why I shucked it to store in barrels after having frozen it to kill the weevils. I will try using diatomaceous earth in 1 barrel to see how that works.
We make our cakes out of flour corn, and we make tortillas and posole from the corn as well. We are buying no food at the supermarket so flour corn and nut flour are our only sources of flour for baking etc,
I also cleaned all of my dry beans for winter soups and beans dishes, as well as that I cleaned our hulless barley. My most productive dry beans this year were our Dalmatian Peans. I ended up with over 1 kg per sq m. I put 1 ti pee per sq m.
I took my Austrian hullless pumpkin seeds from the solar drier and stored them away, together with the Essene flaxseed that will make our biscuits (click here essene bread recipe), and after all of that I fermented a crock of Jalapeno peppers, and didn’t quite get to making my favourite winter ferment .. grated beetroot, daikon, Carrots, with a little garlic and onion thrown in. Must be tomorrows job !