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The Bucket and the Basket

the bucket and the basket

Most times I do my picking walk first thing in the morning before breakfast.  The day is fresh, the birds are just starting up, the chooks are coming down from their roost, the dew is still on the leaves.  Vegetables are cool and lush this time of the day.

It’s a meandering walk.  I notice what is getting eaten by wildlife, what is looking sad, what is flowering and getting near to bearing.  I let my mind wander to what I could make with the crops coming on, and try to make a mental note of any ingredients that need adding to the shopping list.  I tie up a straggling tomato, pick some grasshoppers off the silver beet and some cabbage moths off the kale, free up a poor baby pigeon pea from a tromboncino vine that is trying to climb it.  I put the sprinkler on a bed that is looking too dry, feel the compost to see if it is still hot, try to identify whether a strange bug is a predator.

It usually takes about half an hour, and its the most productive garden work I do.  I walk with a bucket and a basket.  This late in the season, the fruit fly are laying eggs in a fair proportion of the Bishops Crown chilis.  That’s a good thing.  There’s too many for us and I’ve done most of the chili preserving I want to do.  The chooks love the little fruit fly larvae, and don’t mind a bit of chili and some chili seeds to go with them so I pick all of them, and scour the ground under the bush for more.  There’s three or four good ones for the basket, and the rest for the bucket.

Some of the tomatoes are splitting from the recent rain after so much dry.  There’s still plenty for the basket, but a good few for the bucket too.  A lettuce is starting to bolt to seed.  I always pull out the first to try to bolt – I don’t want their genes as the paternal genes in any seeds I save.  The best leaves for the basket – they’ll go in the lunch sandwiches – and the rest for the bucket.  Some rocket is going to seed too, but I’ll let the seed mature for a few more days so they will be good chook protein.

The tromboncinos and cucumbers and zucchini all need to be picked every day. If one of them gets away and gets to seed-bearing size, the vine will figure it has done its job and die off.  So one of each for the basket and the excess for the bucket.  The kale with cabbage moth caterpillars for the bucket and some without for the basket. A handful of nut grass for the bucket – the chooks love it – and some amaranth with seeds.  We like amaranth but don’t need  a lot of it – most goes to the chooks.  Some dock and dandelion leaves and cobblers pegs for the bucket, along with the last of the pigeon peas, shell and all.  The parrots have gotten into one bed and attacked the snake beans.  I fix the gap they got in through and pick the chewed snake beans for the bucket and the unchewed ones for the basket.

I like giving the chooks the grasshoppers live – they so enjoy catching them.  Maybe I should have more empathy for grasshoppers. But last thing I collect a handful of them and throw them into the bed the chooks are clearing and fertilising for me, along with the bucket, and a bag of grass clippings from my mowing last weekend.  Back to the house to unpack the basket and put the bucket back where it goes for the house scraps. In a few hours time, that bucket will be transformed into eggs. In a few weeks time the garden bed where the chooks are will be ready for replanting. It’s a magic walk.


{ 11 comments… add one }
  • Amanda March 21, 2014, 6:53 pm

    Wow, what an amazing description, I felt like I was right there with you!
    I love having chooks so that all that “wasted” food is not really wasted but is, as you say, transformed into eggs and fertile soil. And I’m glad to see that you too have more throwaways than keepers sometimes. We strangely still don’t seem to have fruit fly around this year, but some caterpillars have discovered and destroyed every single cucurbit I’ve planted for the last two months, and most of the San Marzano tomatoes too. It will be back to Romas next year, but I’m not sure what to do about the cucurbits.

  • Julie Maloney March 21, 2014, 8:32 pm

    I enjoyed reading every bit of this post Linda. I am back in the veggie garden again after taking 12 months off to study. I have missed it and I’m loving getting my hands in the soil again. Now I just need it to rain. We have had very little rain for 6 months and the ground is so dry. 2 mls fell a couple of hours ago and I’m praying for a lot more soon. Enjoy your weekend. xxoo

  • celia March 21, 2014, 10:53 pm

    Lovely post! Thank you for taking us out on your morning garden “shop” with you. Chooks are the best thing ever in the garden, I don’t think we could manage without them. Those fab yellow cherry toms of yours are nearing their end here too – the fruit fly have found them – but the chooks love the buggy fruit, so we let the plant grow to feed them.

  • Vanessa March 22, 2014, 3:15 pm

    What a wonderful start to the day. I like your idea and might have to start adopting it. The scrap bucket might get emptied more often that way too 🙂

  • Linda March 22, 2014, 3:55 pm

    Hi Amanda, have you identified the grub? I’m trying to think of something that likes curcubits and tomatoes both, and I’m stumped. Maybe it is two different things?

    I would like more rain too Julie. We’ve been luckier than our Queensland neighbours, we’ve had some this last couple of months, enough to keep us going. But by this time of year, the tanks and dams should all be full and they aren’t. An el Nino is predicted for next summer, and if we don’t get a lot more rain this autumn, it will be a hellish fire season and impossible for gardens. Fingers crossed.

    Your garden is looking so productive too Celia. My morning walk garden shopping is so pleasant, even more so compared with supermarkets with their overbright lights and musak.

    Vanessa, it is a very pleasant way to start the day. My partner likes turning the radio on first thing in the morning for the news, but I find garden sounds and smells and my own thoughts much nicer.

  • EILEEN March 23, 2014, 6:26 pm

    Linda, I miss my chooks and duck so much. I recently moved to an over-fifty-fives compound and no farm animals allowed! I have started my garden the newspaper and straw biscuits way and although I have only been here for about nine months I have had quite good haarvests of tomatoea, potatoes, sweet corn, beans, egg fruit like I have never had before and the same with my cucumbeers. I have one question for you. I have started using newspaper pots and planting the seedlings straight into the garden in the pots but am not having the same sucess as when I transferred the small seedlings to the milk container pots when the planting out was when the seedlings were much bigger. What is the answer???? Please. PS. I love your early morning harvest walk EIleen

  • Linda March 23, 2014, 6:37 pm

    Hi Eileen, I kee p the newspaper pots in the shadehouse until the seedlings are quite advanced too. But it you are planting out at the same stage, the differences I can think of… the milk containers give more wind protection?

  • Cherie March 24, 2014, 1:20 pm

    Loved taking this walk with you 🙂

  • c March 24, 2014, 7:04 pm

    Hi Linda
    I really loved your little excursion. It sounds like such a peaceful yet productive time. Would you please think about sharing a pic of your grasshoppers? I am never sure who are the goodies and who are the baddies. Cheers c

  • Anita April 7, 2014, 8:31 pm

    I cannot think of a more beautiful way to start the day! Although my garden is in its absolute infancy, I still enjoy being out there taking in the early morning energy. Better than my morning cup of tea! 🙂

  • Jason Dingley April 8, 2014, 1:31 pm

    Our mornings sound very similar. I found getting up in the morning very difficult until I started gardening first thing. Now every morning when I wake up the first thing to go through my head is ‘Oooo… I got to go garden.’ I spring out of bed with excitement. And you are right, there is something quite magical about the garden in the morning.

    It never occurred to me though to also carry a bucket around when harvesting. So simple, so brilliant. I mostly just leave the unwanted to rot where it is, when all along I could have been feeding it to the chooks.

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