My first new year surprise was to discover a large, fully-formed cauliflower emerging from a mess of leaves. I’d forgotten that this is what cauliflower do: show no promise whatsoever then boom! appear like overnight mushrooms.
I planted cauliflower and savoy cabbage plants in July. I worried that they were too close together as they had to be protected under a chicken-proof dome.
As the plants grew bigger, they outgrew the dome. I improvised a barricade with bamboo stakes and sturdy bags which had held bark mulch. This proved to work, even though the chooks would jump up to peck at the leaves.
It looked as if all that would come of these plants would be leaves for the chooks to eat. The plants grew above the barricade and had long, leggy stems. Even the chooks might turn up their beaks at these disastrous leaves which were not only pecked full of holes, but spattered with poop from the birds in the nearby trees.
One cabbage was making some effort to form a heart, but the cauliflower was a delightful surprise – six months after planting.
We have now almost finished eating the first cauliflower – yes, the first. When I picked it, I discovered another one forming beside it.
Even without chickens, vegetable gardening is a challenge. We’ll never achieve self-sufficiency, but there’s something special about providing for yourself.