"Don't think the garden loses its ecstasy in Winter. It's quiet, but the roots are down there riotous."

5th July 2016

Meet the purple cheeseberry, Cyathodes glauca, and strong contender for floral emblem of Wielangta Farm. Its edible, but not very tasty, kind of leaves your mouth a bit dry. Its very pretty to look at though, and is out in full fruiting gorgeousness at the moment. Good timing to welcome the bunch of lovely folks who came to our first official FIMBY workshop at the farm - the biochar burn. What fun! See the story about it later.

We've turned the corner into longer days (or at least the earth has moved a bit further round it's orbit of the sun) but as usual we're still staring deep into the maw of cold wet winter. All the more reason to exclaim about and celebrate the appearance of early fragrant bulbs, the flowering of magnolias, and the sweetness of frosted brassicas! Hoorah!

Who's been eating the rhubarb leaves?

SOMEBODY has. Judging by the remaining leaf veins, its feathered or furred thieves, rather than insects. Some possum poo in the centre of the patch confirms the culprit. That, and the fact that the quince tree next door has been bombed by possums over the last little while. The buggers. They've finally decided to cross the 150m or so of paddock from the forest edge, and help themselves to what's growing in our little 'quince garden' at the farm. The open-topped wire cages that have kept wallabies off for the last year are no match for athletic possums.

"But aren't rhubarb leaves s'posed to be poisonous?" I hear you cry. Yes, they are. Supposed to be, and actually are. They have high levels of oxalic acid in them, and other compounds with polysyllabic latin names that are definitely not good for you, or other mammals. You can boil up the leaves and make a mildly effective insecticide to spray on things.

And yet, and yet. Here we are . . . all the leaves have been munched in a fairly short space of time. My chooks have been known to feast on these and other poisonous leaves (like potatoes) too at times. So what's going on? SELF MEDICATION, that's what I reckon. Perhaps the possums (or at other times chooks) have got worms or other internal parasites, and are eating the leaves to get rid of them. Who knows? There are no dead possums in the vicinity, just lots of poo and broken quince tree branches. So, further fortification is required.
Now is a good time to dig and divide rhubarb crowns, from your own or a friend's garden. But perhaps wait and see if the soil dries out a bit next week if you have heavy clay: not only will it be hard on your back to dig in the wet heavy soil, but the soil structure can be damaged badly if you mess around with it too much in really wet conditions. While you wait, you can read up on how to divide rhubarb in our newsletter from LAST YEAR.

We came, we burned stuff, we feasted

Our first official FIMBY workshop at the farm was great fun, despite my ridiculously ambitious lunch menu that kept me too busy to socialise much with everybody. Note to self: next time barter with someone to be the cook.
We had a pit kiln for making biochar from forest sticks, and another fire pit for cooking the quail, beef, roast pumpkin, onions and beetroot for lunch. There was a cold breeze, but a big warm fire! We talked about the what, why and how of biochar, and swapped stories about what people are up to in their own patches.
Once the coals were doused with nutrient rich worm wee (and a few accidental drowned worms), we scooped them out of the pit onto a sheet of corrugated iron. This is to make sure that there are no hotspots that might re-ignite.

Its worth noting however that the biochar will bind with the zinc coating on the corrugated iron, and if we crushed the biochar on the sheet, we'd get elevated levels of zinc, which we probably don't want.
So, crushing on a timber base or non zinc-coated metal would be a better option.
I dropped in to the farm today, and realised we were lucky with the weather window on the weekend. We've had 30mm rain since Sunday, and everything is very wet and spongy.  At left is a photo of our cooking pit - now a paddling pool! No more fires here until things dry out a bit.

Champion worms!

I also dropped in to see Cheryl at Sandford today, one of our Fimbaristas who is doing the one year Garden Craft program. She is growing some VERY impressive brussel sprouts, and we're planning a big planting of fruits, nuts and berries in the next month or two, to populate her fantasitc large good growing enclosure.

We also set up a worm farm in an old eski, and were having a discussion about the difference between compost worms and earthworms. Not be outdone in the impressiveness stakes, Cheryl's husband Ron went and found a couple of worms out in the bushland that he'd been digging around in. These huge champions are most likely native worms, given their large size and that they were hanging out in the bushland soil. I did a review of David Murphy's book about worms last year, you can check it out in our June 2015 newsletter.
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