“Don't judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.”
Robert Louis Stevenson

28 August 2015

Hi everyone! Its nearly 'officially' Spring . . . and with the sun-snow-hail kinda weather and stone fruit blossom everywhere, that seems about right! Its time to find the seed packets of tomatoes, pumpkins, zucchini, capsicum, sweet corn and other summer delights, and get them going in a protected warm spot inside. This will give you a headstart in 6 - 8 weeks when the soil eventually warms up enough (depending where you are) to begin planting out the summer seedlings.
Do you remember the story I told you last year about getting carob seeds from a packet of pods and soaking then planting them? If you don't remember, or haven't been a subscriber that long, you can check the original story in our newsletter HERE (you'll have to scroll to the bottom of the newsletter - have a browse on the way!).

Well: last weekend at the farm we planted 10 carob babies that had survived my lax parenting over the last year. I am not sure how they will go; despite a year in pots they had very little root development. But for the $2.50 cost of the carob pods (which we ate and enjoyed) and a few hours planting time, its a fun experiment. Actually, it was about half an hour planting time, and another hour or two building cages and collecting rocks to protect the little babies from wallaby / rabbit / possum attack.

If they don't survive, we haven't lost much. If they do survive, and thrive, we'll have fodder, shelter, improved soil fertility, carob pods and eventually timber. We'll have to be patient though! Its an excercise in delayed gratification. Character building!

Chestnut Honey?

This is another excercise in delayed gratification, and hope. I recently took some chestnuts out of the fridge where I had put them in Autumn, and planted them in some damp composty potting mix. If they germinate, and survive potting up and eventual transplanting out to the farm next year, we'll let them grow for a year or two, then graft known varieties onto the seedlings.
This will let us cheaply plant many trees, and select the ones best suited to the particular conditions at the farm. Then in about 20 years, we'll have a grove of chestnut trees! I can just picture it: a few pigs rooting about contentedly in the leaf litter, finding stray nuts and converting them (with a little intervention) to delectable prosciutto.  Bees droning in the flowers, collecting nectar to make our very own chestnut honey.

Then youngsters from our families' as-yet-unborn generations milling a few of the old trees for the stunning timber, and building wonderful cabinetry and tables to spread out their feasts on. Lots of "if"s and "eventually"s, but a low cost experiment that fires my imagination!

Last chance!

Our friends at Woodbridge Fruit Trees are having their end of season sale of 15-40% off stock. It runs out in a couple of days, so if you're still after some apples on dwarfing rootstock, have a quick look! There's not a whole lot left - I missed out on some hazelnuts that I was keen on - but there are certainly apples for the snaffling.

Bramble berries behaving beautifully

If you've ever grown loganberries, youngberries, silvanberries, marionberries or their relatives, you'll know that they are unruly creatures. They are very very delicious, but throw out long canes that send out roots if the tips touch the ground. Left untrained, they can form an impenetrable mess that only the birds can pick fruit from. And birds love these berries as much as we do.

The answer? Strict training and pruning, diligent tying up of canes, and adequate netting that doesn't drape over the plant itself but over some external framework.  All these elements have been expressed beautifully at Wendy's place in Sandy Bay.

We visited Wendy's incredibly inspiring garden recently with the Headway Horticulture group that Christina works with regularly.  There is so much good stuff to see in Wendy's garden: fruit of every description, avocado and orange trees included, and kohl rabi the size of soccer balls almost (but still crisp and juicy - look for the variety superschmelz). Its all extremely impressive, and the result of much hard work and time spent in the garden. The berry setup, inside netted polytunnel framework, is beautiful to behold. Thanks for having us Wendy!

Biochar information sharing

Curious to find out more about biochar, and all that it offers for Tasmania? We're organising a few events in a few weeks to share information and experiences in making and using biochar. A great link to find out what biochar is all about is The Biochar Journal.
Biochar is “simple genius” in that it creates something of value from otherwise nuisance waste. Biochar can be used
  • to improve soil water and nutrient holding capacity,
  • in animal husbandry as a feed additive to improve health,
  • in animal bedding to capture nutrients and reduce odour,
  • in water filtration systems eg in disaster recovery.
Biochar is made in many ways, with technologies ranging from pit kilns, top lit drum systems, and complex hi-tech gasifiers.
The cone-kiln design originates from Japan, and recent developments include the deep-cone version from Switzerland. Through sharing of design ideas and experience, a deep cone kiln with bottom quenching facility, as well as a tilting mechanism and wind shield, has been designed and manufactured in Tasmania.

We're fortunate to have Frank Strie from Terra-Preta Developments in the Tamar Valley come south with his Kon-Tiki-Tas deep cone kiln, to demonstrate that particular way of making biochar. We'll have an evening presentation session in Hobart, and two options for daytime show-and-tell: one in the Huon Valley, and one on the Tasman Penninsula. We'd love to hear from people during these sessions who are making their own biochar, or experimenting with it in their gardens.
Here are details for the offerings:

Friday 18th Sept 6.30 - 8.00 pm
Seminar at Sustainable Living Tas
71 Murray Street, Hobart
Cost $15 single, $20 family

Saturday 19th Sept 1.00 - 4.00 pm
Demonstration and presentation
Mountain River Hall, Dip Road
Cost $30 single, $40 family

Sunday 20th Sept 1.00 - 4.00 pm
Demonstration and presentation
Copping Hall, Marion Bay Road
Cost $30 single, $40 family
All bookings can be made online at the Trybooking site. Places are limited.
The address of the booking site, (if you want to let others know about it) is www.trybooking.com/iudz. Contact Christina if you have questions.

Warning: check your leaves

This is not a funny story. It was told to me recently by my brother-in-law who is a pharmacist. His friend (also a pharmacist) picked some leeks for dinner, and didn't realise that there were some daffodils amongst the leeks. Daffodils are quite poisonous - most animals don't touch them (that's why they grow and thrive in old pastures). The family suffered from nausea, diarrhea and vomiting for 4 hours.
These are leek leaves. Bluey-green usually, and with a rough midrib.
These are daffodil leaves. Brighter green usually, soft, without a midrib.
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