Tuesday, 31 December 2013

3 Month Old Baby Carriers (part 2 of 4)

Well my little miss is 3 months old now, and once again she was the perfect model. She fell asleep by around carrier 3 and then I learnt some trips to swap carriers without putting her down so she didn't wake. This made me realise the only carrier you cannot put an already sleeping baby into is the Britax, I had to wait till she woke to take photos in that one.

Please remember to always follow TICKS guidelines and some common sense.

If you would like to catch up part 1 is here.

There are no stretchy wraps included this round as she is already to heavy for them. She is though heavier than an average 3 month old, so you may get longer use of stretchy/knit carriers than we have.

Saturday, 28 December 2013


I am not all that fond of eating broad beans.  I think I have eaten them maybe 2 or 3 times in my life and have never particularly liked them.  I have, however, grown broad beans and saved their seeds many times.

Why grow Broad Beans (Vicia faba)

I used to grow broad beans as green manure or mulch.  As a green manure they are fantastic, they protect the soil, they prevent winter weeds from getting a start, the roots incorporate nitrogen into the soil, the tops add a lot of carbon rich organic matter, and they grow over the cooler months when little else needs the space, they are easy to chop/kill and you can plant seedlings directly into the dead patch.  As a mulch they do ok, being high in nitrogen it tends to break down a bit too fast unless you use a very thick layer, but it certainly has its uses in the vegetable garden.  The variety I am growing now, I first purchased seeds before my first child was born, he "helped" me to plant and save broad bean seeds a few times.

Broad Beans

Then for some years I didn't plant broad beans.  I didn't really think about them at all because I don't eat them.  No great loss.

This year I decided to find the old seeds and plant them, just to see if anything would happen.  I wanted to grow a good winter green manure and remembered how good the broad beans are for this purpose.  I planted seeds which I saved about 5 years ago that had not been stored properly and am happy to say that I had an 80% germination rate.  The plants grew well, they flowered well, the bees loved them over winter when they had little else to eat, and they produced a decent crop.  I fed most of the crop to the animals as we have had no real pasture in a while, then decided to let some pods mature properly so I could save fresh seeds for next year. 

I now have a small jar of fresh seeds waiting to be planted in autumn.  This is the beauty of heirloom vegetables, you buy seeds once, then you have them forever if you like them and can be bothered saving seeds from time to time.  You can also add selective pressure for desirable traits, unlike store bought seeds which have mostly been selected for mechanical harvest.  I only save seeds from pods with the most seeds and the largest seeds, in this way I am adding selective pressure for longer pods and larger seeds.  If anyone eats broad beans these are useful traits, for someone like me who only wants green manure longer pods with more seeds make saving seed faster and easier.  Larger seeds tend to grow faster and stronger than small seeds.  Unfortunately I can not select for taste as I do not eat them, considering that no commercial seeds are selected for taste my plants certainly wont be any worse than theirs.

The variety I grow

The variety I am growing is called "Aquadulce".  It is an heirloom variety that is very old, no one knows the date for sure but certainly pre 1850.  Aquadulce originated in Spain from a selection of Haba de Sevilla Broad Bean.  It was illustrated in the 'Album Vilmorin' in 1871.  I don't know why but I find the history of vegetables, and where each variety came from, to be interesting.  Broad beans are one of the very few vegetables that people in Australia eat which did not originate from the Americas. 

To the best of my knowledge aquadulce is a reasonably common type of broad bean, it is hardy and productive so it is grown commercially in some places.  I mostly grow rare varieties of things, but sometimes the common varieties such as this one are great so I grow them.  My first aim is to grow things that are useful, everything else comes in second.

Aquadulce is a tall plant that grows to about 1 meter, sometimes a bit taller, sometimes a bit shorter.  It has never been inbred too much nor has it had much selective pressure put on it in the past hundred years so it has maintained a bit of genetic variability.  Some people trim the tops as they believe this enhances yield, honestly I do not know if that helps or is simply a commonly held vegetable myth which actually reduces crops.  Aquadulce broad beans grow multiple stems and are very bushy which helps to exclude light from the soil and helps reduce water loss from the soil and suppress weeds.  Some people stake them to prevent them falling over, I have never done that and after the first year or so I never had any plants fall over.  I think this is due to me saving seeds only from plants that did not fall over.

This variety grows 15cm long green pods with about 5 or 6 large yellowish/green/light brown (I am not real good at naming colours, they are nothing remarkable colour wise) flat seeds in each.  The flowers are black and white and have a nice fragrance which is difficult to describe.  They are often described as "heavy cropping" but as I have only ever grown this one variety I can not compare them to other varieties.  All I do know is that each plant does give what I consider to be an acceptable yield for a small amount of space.

This variety is known for having some tolerance to waterlogging.  While this trait is of no use to me here I am sure it is useful in other gardens.  In particularly wet years this trait should be useful.  It is also grown commercially in some places as it has tolerance to iron and manganese deficiencies.  Being tolerant to deficiencies of iron and manganese means that they grow ok if your soil lacks these, but if your soil is not lacking the plants are more robust and healthy.
Some of my Broadbean seeds

Saving Seed

Broad beans are notorious cross pollinators so if you plan on saving seeds please be careful.  They are simple to save seed from.  You let them flower and set pods, you let the pods mature and dry on the plants, then you select the best pods and remove their seeds and put them somewhere safe.  It is important to have a decent number of plants to save seed from so as to prevent problems arising from inbreeding depression.

Broadbean seeds, some dark, some light, the dark ones are higher in iron
I do plan on getting another variety to plant next autumn, I have not decided on which one as I have two in mind that each sound nice and both need more people to maintain them.  I would have to work hard to ensure the two strains do not cross and remain pure.  Having two vegetable gardens which are separate makes this a bit easier.  It also would not be out of the question to grow 2 or 3 varieties on alternate years as the seed remains viable for some time.  For someone like me who is growing broad beans as a green manure it does not matter so much which variety I grow as long as it works here.  I figure if I am going to bother growing anything, even if it is only for green manure, I may as well grow some pure strain and select for desirable traits.

Like everything else I do sell broad bean seeds on my For Sale page.