Happy birthday to us, Happy birthday to us, Happy birthday dear FIMBYYYYYYYYY . .  . Happy birthday to us!
Hip Hip, Hooray!

2nd August 2016

Wasn't the snow pretty a week or so ago? We ought to have learned by now that as the bulbs all wake up and the magnolias start to flower, and the almond blossoms swell and open, that we'll get snow! After the wet wet wet and cold cold cold few months we've had, I hope for the sake of good growers everywhere that our late Winter / early Spring is mild. Hope is probably pretty useless actually. So why not get to a farmers market near you and support local growers by buying their hard won produce, and asking how they're faring.

We noticed on the snow day that any mulched areas collected far more snow than bare earth - attesting to the insulating properties of mulch. We also noted that there was no snow at all on the pile of relatively fresh horse poo . . . bit of heat generation happening in that pile! I've been reading up about all sorts of groovy ideas and ways to heat a greenhouse, or other things, using the heat of decomposition. Stand by for a future post about our 'hot-water-from-woodchip-pile' plans. Its gonna be fun!

Thanks to everyone who wrote back in response to my call for feedback. You are all very kind, and supportive, and gave some great thoughts, so THANKYOU heaps!

FIMBY is turning 8 yrs old!

Yes its hard to believe, but true! Juliet and I registered our business name, and started working with our first 'guinea pig' friends in August 2008. So next Monday 8th August, eight years after the auspicious date of our germination (08-08-08), we'll be eight years old! Wooo Hooooo! Will there be a party? YES! Will there be birthday specials? YES! Will all the details be coming next newsletter? YES! For now, we'll just enjoy the photo of the lovely cake made by the legends at Friends School last year, and get this newsletter finished. We'll send out a special birthday edition soon!

Grapefruit Galore!

These gorgeous golden globes of goodness (ahem!) stole my attention when I visited Julia today to help prune their raspberries. Julia and Svetlana are energetic and diligent gardeners, who have been steadily restoring the health and productivity of a bunch of fruit trees in the backyard since they bought their place in Rose Bay. This grapefruit tree is looking fantastic, and now has a very heavy load of fruit, which the girls don't use very much (although Julia said today that a mix of vodka and grapefruit juice, a 'grehound', is the only way to drink vodka!).
Anyway, if you love grapefruit, and would like to get some beautiful home grown well nurtured specimens, let me know and I can put you in touch with the girls so you can work out a barter of some sort.

Winning the hearts and stomachs of FIMBY people

Get a load of this! CHOCOLATE CAKE WITH STRAWBERRY SAUCE AND YOGHURT! and yes I AM shouting! I was served this luxurious delight while on a tree planting mission with Cheryl last week. Guess who just shot to 'favorite client' status! We spent a couple of hours planting trees in Cheryl and Ron's fantastic large enclosure at Sandford. Ron dug the holes for us, we refilled and planted and pruned apricot, almond, nectarine, apples, greengage, cherry, prune, hazelnuts. Then had a break for lunch . . . home made pumpkin soup with kale bread (featuring garden ingredients of course), then this amazing dessert.

Then we returned to the fray and mulched the newly planted trees. Just when we thought it would be a good idea to give everything some water to settle in, the rain obligingly started to fall. Perfect! I was a bit worried about Cheryl getting tired, since she's had some heavy health issues lately, but when I checked in she said "I haven't had this much fun in ages!"

I love my job, and on days like this, its hard not to squirm with delight!
So, a few pics of Cheryl and Ron's enclosure. At the top left, we see Cheryl last year with some of the abundant, self sown salad leaves in her dovetail timber beds. These beds actually pre-date the enclosure. Cheryl has a knack for letting things self seed, then neatly transplanting the seedlings into orderly blocks in her raised beds. Works a treat!

At top right we see Cheryl last week, watering in the hazels that will form a windbreak along the western side of the enclosure. Its just started raining. You can't see in the photo, but she is grinning!

At bottom left is a pic of some of Cheryl's very impressive brussel sprouts. They've already had a few feeds, and will have many more to come. We planted these as seedlings in February, I think! Cheryl's garden diary will hold all the info.

At bottom right are some leeks, conveniently positioned between a newly planted (and not yet mulched) nectarine, and apricot tree. The longer term plan is to have all the perimeter areas that are planted with trees fully mulched, and underplanted with herbs, strawberries, flowers, bulbs and leafy greens (via scattered seeds). But in the meantime, this crop of leeks can be left to fatten up for a spring harvest.

One of the great lessons of Cheryl's approach to her garden is that its fine to take things one step at a time. First the dovetail beds. Then the enclosure construction. Then some patches of summer annual vegies when time and energy and mulchy materials allowed. Now the trees. Later, more berries and establishment of annual beds and dedicated composting areas. By having a clear long term plan, each step on the way makes sense, and is not overwhelming or too daunting. Just enjoyable!

Getting ready to plant!

August is the beginning of the most exciting seed planting time! Trays and soil blocks of all sorts of warmth loving things: tomatoes, capsicums, cucumbers, pumpkin, corn, zucchini . . . these will be started inside as seeds in the next two months, ready for transplanting out into the garden in October and November, when the soil has warmed up. So its time to clean off some labels, and get seed raising mix organised.
We have some nifty propriety printed planting labels (I use them as business cards all the time!) which are tough plastic, and re-useable. Its best to write on them with pencil, it lasts heaps better than any "permanent" marker or special outdoor xylene fancy pants marker. The very best pencil to use are Chinagraph ones - they're waxy and dark and never rub off.

This makes re-using labels tricky though. However, a quick wash to get the dirt off, then a rub with a cloth dipped in eucalyptus oil works a treat.
Back in the dark days before FIMBY, I used to cut up icecream containers (the old fashioned square tub ones from mum's kitchen drawer) to make durable plastic labels. I've also heard of people using old light coloured blinds, cut into sections. Wooden icy pole sticks are also ok, but don't last and can be hard to read eventually.

If you've ever had FIMBY come and visit and do some planting with you, there are probaby some old labels lying around in the garden somewhere. You can have a hunt, round them up, give them a clean, and be ready to label all the marvellous seedlings varieties you'll plant in the coming months!

Putting worms to work

Last weekend I turned two large compost piles at the farm, combining them into one. It was hard work. I made the original heaps in October last year, with layers of horse poo, spoiled hay, biochar, and weeds from the garlic patch.
Both heaps were built with a border of pallets, and each was around a cubic metre in volume. Over the months they have collapsed down to about half to two thirds their original volume. I was able to combine both old heaps into one big one . . . and they were FULL of worms! When first built they heated up quite well, then have slowly cooled down since. The worms adore horse poo, and have been slowly turning the heaps into a giant worm casting cake.
I could have used the compost as it was after its several months of slow cooking, as a top dressing around perennial plantings, and saved myself the effort of forking it all into a new spot. It was beautifully broken down, with just a few lumps of hay still distinguishable, and some undigested bits around the edges.

In the end, I decided to turn the two heaps, even though the worms have been doing a good job, since I was curious to see how it was developing, and since it was a cold day (so the exercise was welcome) and I wanted the space for our woodchip-hot-water experiment. I'm also keen to get some well cooked compost which I can sift through a mesh later in Spring (when its dried out somewhat hopefully) to add into our garden beds for annual plantings of tomatoes, pumpkins, zucchini and so on.

Here's a photo of the yummy worm casting rich pile after turning into a new pallet bay next door to the originals.
And here's a picture of the now-empty bays, complete with fancy sunlight effects!
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