Backyard Buddies

October 13, 2016

I was researching something for an upcoming post when I discovered a fantastic website called Backyard Buddies.

It’s an Australian site (sorry, overseas readers) and it’s all about the critters you can find in a typical Aussie garden, including insects, birds, mammals, frogs, reptiles and plants. There’s information about creating habitats for them and a list of wildlife care organisations in each State, should you need to help a Buddy in trouble. I’ve signed up to receive their regular monthly newsletter and will follow them on Facebook (they’re also on Twitter and Instagram).

Backyard Buddies is a free education program run by the Foundation for National Parks & Wildlife.

The article I’ve copied and pasted below is from the site. Go take a look. It’s great!


Leafhopper Photo John Tann

Hip Hippity Hoppity Leafhoppers

There’s a spot of yellowy-green, brown or red on your plants and it’s jumping from place to place? Or every time you come to take a closer look it quickly scuttles around to the other side of the leaf?

It could be a leafhopper! They love to bite through leaves, stems and bits of tree trunk to suck up the delicious and nutritious plant sap. Leafhoppers particularly love Eucalyptus trees.

Read more: Leafhoppers


Back in business

October 10, 2016

Before I start, I want to say a big thankyou to those who have made such nice comments about my return to blogging. Real warm glow stuff (I should stop more often!). I won’t reply individually to comments, you’ve all got one big thankyou to share amongst you.

So…the first photo on the ‘new’ blog is one I’m very proud of :


Three beautiful caulis. My first time growing them, although I cheated a bit and bought the seedlings at Bunnings. When they developed huge leaves, on long stalks with no sign of a central flower head, I started picking the leaves for the chooks who love anything in the brassica family. Might as well not waste the leaves, I thought; I didn’t really  expect any flower heads anyway, as I’ve never been very good at getting broccoli to form heads. Then, to my great delight, I noticed tiny heads coming, so I left the rest of the leaves on the plants and waited until the heads were just starting to open a bit and picked them.  Sizewise, they’re the equivalent of a ‘small’ supermarket cauli. Very happy with this effort and will try again next season!

This, I think, is a seedling plum :


I’ve planted it in memory of Bill Mollison who recently went to that great permaculture garden in the sky. The seedling came from a friend’s planter box, which I established for her to grow a few veggies. The contents of her worm farm were routinely emptied in there and some time ago I noticed a dozen or so seedlings that looked like they might be plums. I potted them up and have planted them in various areas in my food forest. This was the last of the batch and I found it when I was looking through my plants for something to plant for Bill.

The comfrey is finally coming back after its winter rest. I must dig up a few more pieces to spread around the food forest. The chooks like it and I can never have enough greens for them :


I’ve been a bit worried about my little Australian Finger Lime. I wrote about it here. I planted it in a large tub next to the gas bottles, up against the side of the deck :


It sat there all winter and hasn’t put out any new leaf growth for spring. The nice, bright yellow-green of the leaves has dulled to a darker green; maybe that was a reaction to the winter cold, but it’s in a sheltered spot facing east and we’ve had some warm days and it hasn’t picked up at all. Some of the leaf tips died and I’ve been expecting it to go to god anytime. Then I noticed these little pink things. Flower buds? Looks like it :


I’m hoping that’s not a sign that it’s making one last try to do its thing before going to god. I’ll be happy to see the leaf colour looking better and new growth appearing. Fingers are crossed.

Tomato seedlings are in the polyhouse waiting to be planted. A bit small yet :



I didn’t bother to sow seeds in the normal way and prick out seedlings. I soaked the seeds overnight and sowed 3  or 4 to each tube. That way there’s no interruption to growth from potting on. I’ll eventually thin to a single seedling per tube by simply cutting off the unwanteds at ground level. I may put some of those in as tiny cuttings. I’ve done it before and it works well.

We have rabbits here. At the far end of the street, there are huge numbers. The property next door to me has breeding burrows which they don’t bother to do anything about. Between us there are two battleaxe driveways to rear properties. The rabbits cross the driveways and head straight into my place. All that side of the property is my food forest; 150 metres long x 15 metres wide. You can imagine how the bunnies love getting in there! I’ve spent the last couple of months going right along the boundary (all 150 metres of it) and adding chicken wire to the bottom part of the existing fencing. It has done some good, I think. The rabbits still come in from the street entrance and from the property behind, but they’re not coming far in. They seem to realise that they can’t get back through the fence and are keeping their retreat options open by staying close to the exits. So the middle part of the food forest has been receiving less damage than usual and self-sown seedlings that normally wouldn’t survive are growing. This large cluster of self-sown poppies is the result :


With any luck, the bees will get some pollen and I’ll get some poppyseed for my home-made bread.

This is a blueberry in a large tub. Nothing strange about that. But look at where the arrow is pointing. How did that get there? A single asparagus :


I just checked the rainfall figures for May, June, July and August and compared them with the average for Melbourne. We had 360 mm and the average is 220 mm. No wonder the lower rear section of the block is squishy to walk on. It’s meant a huge explosion in germination and growth. This is part of the food forest which is on a slight slope and better drained :


The light-green ground cover is chickweed. The thicker mass in the background is Warrigal Greens aka New Zealand Spinach. All that ground was completely bare at the end of summer. The rest of the food forest looks the same. I’ve been pulling the chickweed for the chooks. It’s flowering now and setting seed, which will mean similar growth next winter. The Warrigal Greens will probably die back if we have a dry summer like the last, but it will leave masses of seed, too. I’ve always envied those photos of permaculture gardens which show a huge abundance of growth. Now I’ve got it too. Must be doing something right (or should I just put it down to a beneficent rain god?)

Well…er…I’m back

October 8, 2016

Three reasons really.

First, when I stopped writing in mid-August and said I’d call it a day, I think I was in the throes of the winter blues; the garden was looking woeful and there was nothing much to write about. Now winter is over; sunny days, lots of life-giving rain and spring flowers everywhere, have made me feel better. As I’ve been walking around the garden and  seeing something happening I’ve thought, “I could put that on the blog…oh, no, I can’t.” So now I can!

Second, people are still signing up to the blog. It floored me at first; why would they want to sign up to something that wasn’t going to continue? After thinking about it, I realised that they’d probably come in through the side door and not the front…..reading old posts via a search…..and hadn’t seen the last post which announced I was stopping. I’m feeling a bit guilty about them….signing up to receive an email notification about a new post that would never come. When I looked at the blog’s stats just now, it is still getting up to 50 hits a day. I was very surprised!

Third, while I will still post about what’s happening in the garden, I want to add in some posts about the bigger global picture and some thoughts about  it, particularly self-sufficiency and sustainability issues and of course, energy decline (after all the blog’s by-line is, “Energy decline and self-sufficiency ………..”). Energy plays a major role in everything I do, so it deserves a greater input on the blog.

So there y’go. Now I have to actually write a post and see if I can remember how to ‘save draft’, ‘preview’ and ‘publish’.

I think a tour of the garden is required. With camera in hand, of course.

Goodbyes are hard……

August 15, 2016

…..but this is one I have to make. I’ve decided to cease writing this blog. It’s been going for almost nine years now and I think I’ve said all I want to say and I’m finding it hard to come up with new posts which aren’t just repeats of what I’ve already written. And seriously, I doubt whether it’s doing any good to encourage self-sufficiency amongst people who are aren’t already into it. I’m just preaching to the converted and those who don’t think self-sufficiency is important won’t be reading this stuff anyway.

Thank you all all my readers and those who’ve made regular comments; they’ve all been much appreciated. I will still read all your own self-sufficiency blogs and comment there, so we can keep in touch.

I won’t take the blog down but will leave it here for as long as WordPress allows it to be here. I’ll probably need to refer back to some of the information myself. 🙂

Enjoy your gardens and the healthy food they give you.


Pickled apples

July 30, 2016

I’ve dried them, but never pickled them.

Just thought I’d share this. I’m going to have a go.

(image taken from the blog)


July 22, 2016

About 12 months ago I was given a small pot with a sickly-looking yellow leaf in it and asked if I could “make it well again”. The label said ‘turmeric’ and I’d always wanted to have a go at growing it, but had never been able to buy rhizomes locally. Green Harvest in Queensland does sell them but I hadn’t ordered any to try because I figured it probably wouldn’t be that easy to grow down south and didn’t want to waste the money.

But here was an opportunity to have a go and the donor had said she didn’t really want it back again.

So I potted it into a slightly larger pot and consulted Mr Google. As I thought, it seemed as though the plant wasn’t dying, but just entering winter dormancy. I left it in the polyhouse, just keeping it moist, and sure enough, in spring a little green shoot appeared. I fed it with Dynamic Lifter, watered it regularly and eventually potted it into a larger pot. This is how it looked at the end of summer :


As the weather cooled, the leaves started to yellow. I cut back on watering :


More and more :


Finally, the moment of truth had come. Time to tip it out of the pot and see if there were any rhizomes.

Yay! :


The clump split easily into two. I’ve replanted the group of larger rhizomes on the left and separated the smaller ones on the right. I was surprised to see the little tubers growing at the end of the thick roots, just like they do for potatoes. I had thought that the main rhizome multiplied by just elongating and branching, so I’ve stored these little tubers in moist cocopeat until I can get around to planting them individually into smaller pots. I hope they will form the basis of new plants, but will probably take some time to grow big enough to harvest.

The  tubers I took inside to use were only small….. a couple the size of my little finger. I didn’t even bother to take a photo. I decided to try drying them, so chopped them in the Thermomix and put them in the dryer. They were yellow when I put them in but they’ve gone brown :


Maybe that’s an enzymatic reaction, same as when chopped apples and potatoes go brown. I hope it hasn’t altered the nutritional qualities. Looks like I can add another foodstuff to my self-sufficiency repertoire…..and a healthy one at that.

Storm damage

July 19, 2016

We had some wild weather last week, with high winds and rain. Today is fine, sunny and windless and I finally got outside to assess the damage. A tamarillo has  bitten the dust :


A huge Swamp Gum down the back has lost a main branch, which is still attached and hooked up on other trees. I’ll be keeping away from underneath this one until it decides to fall all the way :



This was the major damage. The rest consisted of small branches and twigs everywhere, out of which I got four useful barrowloads of mulched gum leaves.


May update

June 23, 2016

Yes, I know it’s almost June, but nothing much happened during May and I’ve been hibernating inside in front of the fire for the most part of each day.

So just a few quick photos.

I’ve given up sowing seed in the conventional way, potting up and growing on seedlings ready to plant out. Instead I’ve taken the lazy way out and sowed thickly in wicking boxes and large tubs. This is Lacinato Kale in a tub :


Another tub of the same, with some chickweed coming up as well :


I’m harvesting a few seedlings to add to other greens and will eventually let the rest grow on into bigger plants.

The leaves on the turmeric plant in its pot in the polyhouse are dying back, so I’m giving it minimal water now. I’ve never grown it before so I assume that I will be able to harvest the tubers (if there are any!), when all the leaves have died back (helpful hints welcome) :


I cut into my only summer-grown pumpkin, the Naranka Gold variety, hoping there would be viable seed and there was plenty. The flavour was a bit disappointing…not as sweet as I’d hoped, but I’ll be able to try growing it again this season :


The purple-podded peas are producing plenty of pods but only in small quantities each day. I’m shelling them and throwing the peas into the freezer, seeing how they go without blanching this time. It occurred to me that blanching is really only done to destroy the enzymes that make cut surfaces go brown and start to decay, so I hoped maybe since they are just whole peas with no cut surfaces, freezing might work without the need to blanch :


Tamarillos are ripening and I’ve been looking into trying a small batch of tamarillo jam. Recipes on the Net are many and varied, so I’ll pick one and have a go :


Lots of rain in May has meant a huge crop of mushies, many more and bigger than I’ve ever seen here before. I’ve been drying them in the Excalibur dehydrator and storing them for casseroles and soups.


Rain? Yes, it finally did. We had 127 mm (5 inches in the old scale), twice Melbourne’s average of 68 mm for May. The big tank is full and the overflow has been going into the 3 pools at the rear of the property and they’re now full and running over. All 3 dried out completely in summer, only the second time in 17 years the big one has been bone dry (it’s about a metre deep in the centre when full) and about 5 metres in diameter.

So that ‘s about it for May. If I don’t post this soon, it’ll be June and I’ll have to be thinking about another update. Time flies!

Happiness is a ripe persimmon

May 20, 2016

My persimmon tree produced 20 fruit this autumn. It’s been in 8 years and has only produced fruit once before. That year it managed 13 and  I was over the moon. This year, I went right around the solar system!

When a persimmon ripens, it goes squishy soft, like a balloon filled with water. The flesh inside has the texture of apricot jam. The peel isn’t usually eaten. I found the best way to tackle one was to cut from bottom to top, down through the centre, to the hard woody calyx :


Then pick up the whole thing, one half in each hand, squeeze the sides upwards from the bottom and slurp up the pulp. It helps to be standing with head bent over the sink at the time, and a wet flannel is necessary to wipe the mouth and surrounds afterwards.



April update

May 1, 2016

I found a spot for my little Australian native Finger Lime in a large tub beside the deck. It looked so big in its original nursery pot and now looks so tiny dwarfed by the gas bottles. I had planted a half circle of purple-podded peas at the rear of the tub and they had only just germinated, so it will have some company and they will put some nitrogen into the soil for it. I’m still tossing up whether to get another one to plant in the garden near the regular citrus trees :


Tamarillos are starting to ripen and so are persimmons :


I wasn’t sure about the persimmons, even though the colour looked right, they were still hard, so I picked just one and left it on the bench for a week and thankfully it softened and became edible. This is what a friend told me to do years ago. She had a huge tree and I can remember visiting and seeing dozens of bright orange persimmons lining the window sills in the kitchen and living room.

I’m pleased with my garlic so far, growing in the new bath. Hope it’s better than last year when the bulbs I picked were so small as to be practically useless :


Carrots direct sown in a wicking box :


My local greengrocer had locally grown Pink Lady apples for under $2 a kilo, so I got some to dry. I’ll chop these into smaller pieces in the Thermomix and use them in a mixture of chopped dried apricots and sultanas, which I add to my (cooked) rolled oats for winter breakfasts :


I dried some lime slices at the same time. Don’t know what I’ll do with these :


My Jerusalem artichokes were a dismal failure, but then I wasn’t surprised. They were in a terrible spot under gum trees, got very little water through the summer and almost no nutrients. So this is the entire crop. I’m not eating any, but replanting them right away into a large tub which will be well watered and fed through next summer.


The solitary yellow tamarillo has produced more fruit than the four red ones, which, for some reason, lost most of their flowers during the summer :


The trouble with most of these fruits is that they’re well out of reach, because tamarillo plants do this :


A tall skinny trunk with an umbrella of foliage at the top. In The Complete Book of Fruit Growing in Australia, Louis Glowinski recommends pinching out the tip growth when the plant is a metre high to force it to branch. Well, I did that with this plant and it still reached for the heavens (it might have been a little over a metre). Nowadays I pinch out the tip growth when the seedling is only 25 cm high (no mature trees from that experiment to show as yet). Luckily the fruits fall when they’re really ripe, even though they’re usually OK to eat before that.

My Naranka Gold pumpkin has been picked and is maturing enjoying the sun on top of the firewood box on the deck. I hope there’s plenty of seed inside as I’ve now run out and this one is grown exclusively for Coles supermarkets, so seed isn’t available to buy :


My yacon crop is better this year. I kept it well-watered and fed over summer, so I’m hoping for some decent tubers. It’s planted under a couple of tamarillos (note the trunks either side), so it was always protected from the direct sun which makes the soft leaves wilt readily :


I cleaned all the old summer crops out of the two planter boxes and planted some kale seedlings :


But there are still white butterflies about, so :


The climbing beans did so well in the milk bottle planters, I thought I’d try some peas. Only three per bottle and they’ll require careful tying up since they don’t twine like beans, but hey, anything’s worth a try :


The strawberry wicking buckets are still producing a few strawberries :


During the month we had a welcome 50 mm of rain which greened everything up nicely, but we still need much more to make up for the very dry spring and summer months. Melbourne’s average for April is 53 mm.

Last but not least, the Girls have all stopped laying and are having their autumn/winter break. I don’t expect any more eggs until September at the earliest. I’ll be buying eggs for the first time in 13 months. This was the first laying year for the three newbies (Bonny, Missy & Clover) and between them they laid 382 eggs. Five year-old Molly would have contributed some of those, but not many. She’s a senior cit now and just likes to spend her days lolling in the sun. When she does produce an egg it probably surprises her more than it does me.