Each week I sit down and come up with something to write about. And of course, those things carry on beyond when I’ve written about them.

Sometimes it’s worth writing an entire post on what’s going on in one area – such as my bananas, a 4-year (so far) project to grow a traditionally tropical fruit. But more often these updates are pretty short, and it’s easier to group them into an update post.

It’s been a little while since my last one, so here’s how a range of projects are progressing here at The Outpost.

Alaska and Tommy

Back in January, we managed (with the help of one of our chooks) to successfully hatch two chicks. We named them Pam and Tommy.

As it turns out, we called their sexes correctly. Pam is, in fact, a hen. Tommy is a rooster.

Of course, we already had a rooster – Alaska Thunderfuck – he is quite magnificent and isn’t a huge fan of having another dude around. And as Tommy is growing and becoming his own opulent self, that’s becoming a little bit more of a problem.

There’s a little scrap most days – not enough that either of them are dead, but enough that Alaska is definitely in charge. Tommy usually responds by leaving the enclosed area and refusing to go back in.

So we’re thinking about what to do here. I must admit that when Alaska starts crowing through my afternoon naps, I feel like that decision would be simple. But truthfully we’re too attached to both of them. It’s a conundrum.

Pam’s eggs

Pam has begun laying and she lays the tiniest, cutest eggs. She seems to have inherited the HyLine trait of laying very regularly, but not the trait of laying big eggs.

So we get a very small egg from her most days. And truthfully? They’re my favourite.

On the left - a size 7 egg. On the right - one of Pam's.

On the left, a Size 7 egg. Pretty standard from the supermarket, and from the rest of our flock. On the right, one of Pam’s. They usually weigh between 45 and 50 grams, which makes them a Size 5.

I can have two eggs with my bacon, without feeling too full. And when I’m working with pastry and need an egg wash? Perfect size! No waste!

I’m also of the belief they’ll be perfect for pickled eggs and finger foods. They’re exactly the right size for a mouthful.

You’d probably never be able to buy these wonderful eggs in supermarkets, but we get one every single day from Pam.

The mulch pile

A few weeks ago I wrote a blog about the giant mulch pile that has morphed into a metaphor about why we don’t have a house built yet.

Since then, I have been cranking out the mulch. I’ve moved 77 loads in total – 63 since the last time I wrote about it. I can’t lie, the loads between 51 and 68 went pretty quickly after I thought of this joke for load 69.

Two wheelbarrows in a '69' position - on on top of the other.

I’ve found that moving two loads at a time isn’t much harder than moving one load. So most days I crank out two, even though I’ve only committed to one.

I’ve also found that if I do two loads, I usually have the energy to load up another two – which I do if it’s not raining. That, in turn, gives me the motivation to move those extra loads later on in the day. So sometimes I knock out four.

The mulch pile, and what's gone.

The planting this mulch is being moved to is looking significantly better. Two wheelbarrows might cover a square meter at the thickness I’m applying it at. Slowly, slowly, it’s getting there.

And look, just quietly, I’m enjoying the exercise. The first time I did this, it sucked. But after doing it every day for nearly a month? It’s easier. I’ve figured out some shortcuts. My body is adjusting.

I’m getting at least 20 minutes of good, natural movement every single day. And I’ll be interested to see if this has had an impact on my blood pressure the next time I get that checked in a couple of months.

The pile of mulch is still huge. I finally feel like I can see some actual progress, but it’s not 50% smaller yet. I have revised my original estimate and now I think there’s 240 loads in this pile. Maybe I’ll be finished before Christmas.

2023 Garlic crop

Ah, the garlic.

Well, I’ve got rust. So that’s cool. It does seem to be moving slower than the last time I got it, but my garlic was also planted later.

Rust on a garlic leaf

It’s basically a race against time at this stage. I’m still spraying with apple cider vinegar, but it will be what it will be. I’m not removing leaves because I don’t believe that actually helps at all.

I did remove the first plants to get hit – about 10% of them. But I’d be removing quite a lot of them at this stage, so I’ve given up on that too.

I don’t know if I can really be bothered with this anymore. That’s a pretty familiar refrain from anyone who has been hit with rust a few times. You can only stress about the health of your garlic babies so much. It’s a hobby that I’ve tried to commercialise, and nature just keeps saying no.

So we will wait and see how it turns out. Maybe it’ll be good, maybe it won’t.

I’m trying to stay positive, but I also find it difficult to look closely at that part of the garden at the moment.

Garden club

Back in February I launched a Garden Club membership through BuyMeACoffee. A small handful of wonderful readers have joined me there, and I produce two extra pieces of writing for them each month.

The first is a monthly ‘what to do in your garden’ – published on the first of each month. In these, I aim to help you keep on top of the garden tasks for a successful veggie garden. In October’s edition, I’m giving my two cents about bug-netting and mulch too.

The second is a ‘Deep Dive’ into topics voted for by my members. These Deep Dives have been pretty awesome to write, if I’m honest. In September I published the sixth – on White Cabbage Butterfly.

My Deep Dives are usually about 2000 words – though the longest is nearly double that. They force me to focus on one topic and really ‘dive in’. So far I’ve looked at Seed Saving, Worm Farming, Companion Planting, Pruning Fruit Trees, and Improving Soils Organically.

I’ve made a bunch of these available for individual purchase, if you’re interested. But the cheapest way to get access is to join the Garden Club at $10/month.

Lazy gardening

A few months ago, my life got a bit turned upside-down when I was ‘pulled out of retirement’ to go help the Nisa team save their place of employment.

We ran a very successful crowdfunding campaign on PledgeMe. And as a result, there are some other interesting opportunities knocking on my door. It’s keeping me on my toes!

So I’m very glad that – for the most part – my garden looks after itself. A few years ago I employed one of my mother’s methods for gardening. I call it ‘lazy gardening‘ – you could just as easily call it ‘messy gardening’. 

There are some crops I make time for – leeks, potatoes, garlic, broccoli. But the rest – tomatoes, lettuce, herbs, rocket, pak choi – is just growing itself.

I let them go to seed, they grow where they want, and the only thing I need to do is pay attention to where they’ve chosen to grow. It’s brilliant.