Hello, my name is Sandy.

We must catch up

a heron taking off from the water

It's been hard to sit and write lately, despite wanting to. I'm tired after work, and at other times preoccupied by little adventures. Tonight was set aside for Prison Architect, but instead I think I'll have tea and tell you what's been happening.

pumpkin soup with Gourdon

So, before we left for the farm, we turned baby Gourdon into food. Here he is as a pumpkin soup. Bland pumpkin soup. It turns out Jarrahdale pumpkins are nutty, almost squash- and zucchini-like in flavour. The pumpkin-ness is mild, so they are better suited to curries. Lesson learned. If you're making pumpkin soup, use Butternut or a fecking Kent (also known as Jap).

pumpkin curry with Gourdon

Gourdon also became a curry, the mild flavour working well with spices and chickpeas. I used too much cumin, which gives me a headache if I don't cook it for long enough, so whatever's left in the freezer will need a long, long re-heat time.

We meant to make pumpkin pie too, but what was left didn't last til we got back from holiday. I think we would have ended up with similar results to the soup. The next pumpkin adventure will need to be a sweeter breed.

electronics button panel

I finished my Arduino course, the projects book that came with the starter kit. This is what an electronics button panel looks like without the actual buttons on top. The little interlocked E shapes are non-touching ends of a circuit. When you press the button, it mashes a conductive material across the two E's, which closes the circuit and transmits the button-press.

That alone was mindblowing after a lifetime-thus-far of a) not knowing, and b) never even thinking to wonder. Imagine the exhilaration to then hack the buttons to make the device think someone pressed a button when really it was my computer sending a false signal. I felt briefly boss-like with a hint of cyberpunk.

Raspberry Pi 2, unboxed

So, now I am an expert n00b. I'm scared to fall into the trap of just reading a bunch of stuff and thinking it's as good as actually doing it, so my next project will be to set up an LED display board for some kind of computer machine. I'm excited to learn about power ampy volty chargey stuff, cos electricity never made sense to me til now. But bless my gentle, patient physics teacher for trying.

#listersgottalist fav. expressions

In April, I joined the #listersgottalist challenge, but stopped halfway because I wasn't enjoying it. There's nothing inherently wrong with the challenge, but some days - many days - I didn't find it interesting to answer questions.

I felt obliged at first to see it through, but then remembered it's important to be as good at quitting as you are at continuing. My newfound konmari habit kicked in, and I chose to focus all my art energy on #100daysofteacup, which I am really enjoying even though it's hard work.

It's awkward to convey what a difference the konmari approach has made in my life. Whenever anyone asks, I feel like that person you worry about for maybe having joined a cult. Everything making me happy nowadays can be attributed at least in part to this "life-changing magic of tidying up". The joy aspect is what hit home for me, but for a good summary of the practical tidy-up stuff, I quite liked Chisa's blog post on konmari. Go read it. :)

beans and rice at the markets

I've been batch cooking food in advance, and calculating the cost per meal given the total expense. The first batch turned out great. We got 14 meals at about $6.50 each. I'm on my second batch now, which has so far averaged at $7 a meal, with another week's worth of food left to go. This will be my part-time finance's saving grace.

The one downside is eating the same thing over and over. Even with takeaway and ad-hoc meals in between, it's... OK, it's not actually that bad except I made 3 bean-based dishes this time around, and things are not so elegant in the stomach area. Learn from my mistakes.

homemade meal

I was so very happy about this, though - this picture is of a totally homemade meal. Homemade baked beans, homemade (handmade) bread, and homemade ginger beer. And I ate it on a little wooden table Niaal made for me. :D

One day, I hope for this to be a totally homegrown meal too. I want to grow the beans and tomatoes, the flour and the avocado, the ginger and the honey. Maybe even make the plates and bowls they get served in. It's my dream to - not necessarily be totally self-sufficient and live off the grid like a mega-hippie - but to understand how stuff works and be able to provide when I choose to. Even tiny progress like this makes that feel attainable.

fantastically smooth bars of soap

And I did end up making some soap. I took a lot of photos, which I cbf editing now, so I will tell you about that another day. It was heaps fun, and not as scary as I thought, and I'm game to try making some from scratch once we're in a bigger kitchen.

All right, my teacup is empty. Time for a refill. Good night, friends. :)

Little baby Gourdon

my Jarrahdale pumpkin, the good side

We'd like to welcome a new addition to the family. He's a beautiful C. pepo Jarrahdale, harvested today, after 58 days of fruiting (126 days plant age). We have named him Gourdon.

I was going to wait til the plant died completely, but Gourdon looked ripe enough. His wound started looking strange, and ants were creeping under the band-aid, so thought it best to bring him indoors.

my first pumpkin

Here he is with sunburn and wound, which I only noticed after harvesting had hardened up a bit. I could have gotten away with letting him grow for longer.

close up of sunburn and wound

It's interesting to see how plants recover. The hole is rough and hard now, like a callous.

scab from early trauma

Here's a scab from trauma earlier in Gourdon's life. He started growing into his trellis one day, and got stuck. Big old scrape as we pulled him out; the blisters repaired quickly. Looks a mess now, but that's life, innit.

pumpkin smaller than a cat

He is smaller than a cat. Probably about the size of a small cat curled up for a nap. I like to think he could have been bigger if we had more space, and a watering system more reliable than me.

my Jarrahdale pumpkin, from behind

I've learned heaps from this adventure - and I don't mean just how to grow a pumpkin!

Firstly, to achieve your goals, you must respond to problems that come up - be it sunburn, flesh wounds, or general life stuff. You can't wait around hoping things will fix themselves. Of course, you can't control everything, but what you can control can help tip the odds in your favour. And it's nice to have odds in your favour.

Secondly, everything comes and goes with the season, including the motivation to tend plants for 20 minutes a day. It's one thing to be excited and enthusiastic, another thing entirely to be disciplined and commited. Success requires all the things, and where you wane, you need loving, supportive people around you to help keep you going.

Finally, however much you obsess over your beloved vegetable, the fact that you can harvest early, cut off the gross bits, and eat the rest shows this is not at all like having a child. So I can put to rest my dreams of Gourdon growing up to be a football star or Greens senator.

The best I hope for will be curry or a pie.

Pumpkin drama. I am a bad parent.

pumpkin with a sunburnt cheek

We have had a drama. In the recent heatwave, with temperatures in high 30's for days, my baby got sunburnt.

I didn't bother covering it cos I thought - pff! - it's a summer plant, it won't burn. So when early signs showed, I decided no way would it be a problem. Naturally, it got worse over time. This is why it's best I don't have children.

Pumpkins can most definitely burn. Normally, you read about it happening to the leaves, but if you've been removing leaves in the fight against mildew, the fruit will be lacking in shade.

pumpkin wearing a sun hat

So how? My baby now wears a hat. And of course it rains the day after I put it on, but by then we're down south, and my nice broad-brimmed Bunnings hat has shrunk and warped. I'm sure I'll still wear it anyway in honour of this misadventure.

AND THEN I take the hat off one day, and notice the skin has blistered. There's a little hole in the top of my pumpkin, the size of a thumbprint. I think we're still okay for being able to eat it. Nothing looks sick or rotten.

I noticed a couple of ants scouting the crater, so I put a band-aid on it. If it's good enough for people, surely it's good enough for a fruit, right? It looks ridiculous now, and I just want the vines to cark it so I can harvest and call it a season.

That's a terrible attitude, isn't it.

I'm sorry.

I'm here for you, little pumpkin. All you need to do is survive a few more weeks til autumn. We can do this together.

My baby pumpkin at 23 days

baby pumpkin, 23 days

My little Cucurbita pepo at 23 days. He is getting close to harvest time, according to Gardenate. Not a bad size for a first pumpkin. Maybe if I add some worm poo to the garden bed, we can do a power run to the end of the month.

But I will wait until the vines wither. I wonder when that will happen, and what triggers it. Is it as easy as a "15-20 week" prediction on a seed packet? We shall see.

spot of powdery mildew on pumpkin leaf

We've had minor bouts of powdery mildew. It's sad to see white fuzzy spots suddenly appearing on leaves. But you can understand why this annoying fungus likes to make a home on them - rough and furry fibres, lots of surface area to nest in.

I'm not keen on chemicals in such a small garden. If we were talking about a large scale operation or intense infestation, sure. But for this tiny project, out came the milk.

milk spray in a bottle

Yeah, you heard me: milk spray.

I was skeptical. It sounded like a disgusting wives tale, like kissing toads if you want to get warts. But apparently it's a thing (pg. 31, 37), quite likely because:

  • milk residue leaves a physical barrier on the surface of the leaf,
  • milk alters the pH of the leaf surface, changing the conditions typically ideal for fungal growth, and
  • a protein in the milk has a destructive effect on the mildew's reproductive parts.

Interesting science!

It's still disgusting and it stinks, especially on a warm day. But only for a while. And the next day, the white spots were still visible, but faded.

pumpkin patch bukkake party

Our pumpkin is pregnant!

a pregnant pumpkin

Yeahhhhhhh get it in ya!!

Last weekend, we spotted a young female flower looking ready to bloom, so on Tuesday, we got up early for some hot hand pumpkin action.

She smelled amazing, by the way. As soon as we stepped outdoors, I could smell a sweet pumpkin fragrance in the air. None of the articles and books said anything about this. What a delightful surprise! :)

We disrobed the healthiest looking male flower and gave the anther a good rub on the female's stigma. In, around, and in again. And left the anther in for good measure.

That evening, I gave her a prod, thinking I should remove the anther, but she was shut up tight.

The following morning, her ovary had grown from marble size to a ping pong ball. This morning, it was as big as a cricket ball, at 5 days old.

From here, it will be vital to look out for:

Hydration - lots of water for my thirsty plant.

Soil fertility - lots of Seasol, potash and vermicompost.

Powdery mildew - removing any infested plant parts as quickly as possible, and minding airflow between the leaves. And maybe a milk spray if I can find some unpasteurised milk.

Naturally, we are both very excited for delicious new baby. :)

Pumpkin plant at 2 months

pumpkin plant at 2 months

My pumpkin is just shy of 2 months old now. It is time to talk about making babies.

male pumpkin flower

Male flowers have been blooming for the last couple of weeks...

female pumpkin flower

...and more recently, female flowers have emerged and withered. I'm not sure if this one's been pollinated. Doubtful, but should I be so lucky, this little guy, suspended at the top of one trellis, dangling in a cramped space, is in the most awkward spot possible for a pumpkin to grow.

So this raises the question of whether I should intervene, selecting female flowers for some hot hand action, based on how conveniently placed they are in the garden bed. I'm not sure yet. I'd prefer if nature took its course, but that could well lead nowhere.

pumpkin vine growing upward

By the way, a pumpkin vine is suprisingly easy to train up a trellis. It's heavy enough to settle when you rest it somewhere, so you don't have to wait for the grabby tendrils to grow (unlike my snow peas). It's strong enough not to snap or crease if you take a slightly wrong bend (unlike my hops). And it's soft enough to change direction (unlike my creeping fig).

To secure the vine, I've been using cut-up strips of pantyhose, purchased for a dollar at Good Sammy. Those $6 balls of jute look on in jealous redundancy.

pantyhose ties