Sustainable Food Trust

May 18, 2017

Just found this Sustainable Food Trust site through a link from another blog, specifically this article on whether eating no meat is doing more harm than good.

No comments as yet from me as to whether it’s a good site or not, but I’ll be reading through the articles with interest.

Mushrooms

May 17, 2017

A few mushies are finally appearing after the recent rains. I’ve been checking regularly, so that I can pick them before they get damaged by little critters in the leaf litter. There have been more this year than last and the good thing is, they’ve been appearing in spots where I’ve never seen them before, so it means the mycelium is more widespread than I first thought.

While I’ve eaten a few, I decided that drying for future use would be a better option. I wash them first, under the tap, to remove any dirt, then put them in the dryer as is, for a couple of hours :

This removes the surface moisture and crisps up the gills. There’s still a lot of moisture in the thicker part of the cap, so I slice them and put them back into the dryer until they’re really dry :

After that it’s into the Thermomix for a quick pulse to break them into fragments :

The smell when you take off the lid is overpowering!

I’ll use these to flavour casseroles over winter and at the moment I’ve been making a tasty sauce for my fried steak. After the steak is cooked, I remove it from the pan, add a spoonful of dried mushrooms, a dob of butter and a couple of spoonfuls of home-made tomato relish. It makes a beautifully rich sauce for the steak. Yum!

Of course, I don’t have to wait for mushroom season on the property. If mushies are on special in the supermarket, I will buy them and dry them, at any time of the year. I’ve never regretted buying the Excalibur dryer. When I first bought it, I didn’t have solar panels. Now, they run the dryer. Still drying with the sun!

April update

May 3, 2017

Autumn is one of the best times in Melbourne—I love the way the bush looks on misty mornings :

As we move into the cooler months, work in the food garden mainly involves cleaning up the remains of the summer crops—removing tomato plants and climbing beans and getting the tubs and wicking boxes ready for winter crops.

I harvested Jerusalem artichokes. These are some of the bigger ones. There were many smaller ones which I’ve replanted :

Jerusalem artichokes are also called sunchokes. They don’t store very well—about a week in the fridge say most sources, so I’m investigating drying them with a view to using them in casseroles. I’ve sliced some and dried one lot without blanching and another lot with blanching—dropping the slices into boiling water and removing them as the water comes back to the boil. The unblanched ones didn’t go brown, which is helpful as blanching is an extra time-consuming step I would rather not do unless necessary. I tried them roasted—scrubbed but unpeeled—they took about 20 mins to soften and were quite acceptable, with crunchy skins. In the past I’ve just cut them into thick slices and fried them until soft. The carbohydrate in sunchokes isn’t starch as in potatoes; it’s inulin. Wikipedia has this to say:

Inulin is indigestible by the human enzymes ptyalin and amylase, which are adapted to digest starch. As a result, inulin passes through much of the digestive system intact. It is only in the colon that bacteria metabolise inulin, with the release of significant quantities of carbon dioxide, hydrogen, and/or methane. Inulin-containing foods can be rather gassy, in particular for those unaccustomed to inulin, and these foods should be consumed in moderation at first.

The production of gas in some people without the correct intestinal bacteria is the reason why they’re often referred to as Jerusalem ‘fartichokes’. I can’t remember having any obvious problems, but then I don’t pig out on them. I just see them as a valuable additional food source that is easy to grow.

There are four pumpkins ripening—Naranka Gold and Kent—two on each plant :

Cherry Guava are ripening. They soften quickly after being picked so I need to find a way of preserving them :

I picked a few pears. Although both trees flowered well, only the Williams variety set fruit and despite trying to get a net over most of it, the birds (or possums) got most of them :

Seeds were collected—garlic chives and Purple King climbing beans :

Kindling wood was chopped for winter fires (actually it’s an ongoing job) :

This is Redbor kale direct-sown in a wicking box. Two different leaf shapes have appeared—not surprising, as this was collected from plants last year and Redbor is a hybrid form, so it looks as though some plants have reverted to the parent forms :

Tamarillos are ripening :

Carrots direct-sown in a wicking box. Looks like I’m going to have to pull up a chair and do some thinning. I over-sowed because the seed was old. I didn’t expect such good germination :

I planted garlic and some cloves didn’t sprout. Haven’t had much luck with garlic the past couple of years, but I keep trying :

Persimmons are ripening. I’ve got them covered in the little nylon socks at the moment. They’ll be more obvious and in danger from bird and possum attack when the leaves have fallen. Last year I picked them when they had some colour in them like these and they ripened inside. I might try that again this year. Every one of these beautiful fruits is more precious than gold :

Asparagus fern is starting to die back. When it’s all dead I’ll cut it back to the ground and fertilise the area ready for spring. I can’t wait for the season to begin again. Last year I was eating fresh asparagus every other day :

Warrigal Greens survived the summer and has taken off with the recent rain. I wonder if I could harvest it and interest a local restaurant in buying it?  Unfortunately, not many people know about it as a nutritious native plant and spinach substitute. Anyway, it makes a useful ground cover :

I haven’t found many mushrooms so far. I missed seeing a huge one the size of a dinner plate. By the time I discovered it, it was infested with slaters. I’ve picked and dried a couple of smaller ones.

Melbourne’s average rainfall for April is 53 mm and we had 89 mm. The first couple of weeks were warm and sunny, but temperatures have dropped into the teens now.

Onwards to winter and warming casseroles beside the wood fire. Bye-bye salads.

Home, home on the range…..

April 17, 2017

….but no deer and antelope playing here.

I’ve been wanting to put up a post for ages showing a plan of my particular ‘home on the range’ and the various growing areas, but have been defeated by trying to manipulate the installed drawing programs on the computer. I’ve finally decided to save a Google Earth shot and use that with additional photos.

So here it is :

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The property is one hectare (2.5 acres) in area and there’s a gentle slope from the top left corner of the photo to the bottom right (south-west corner to north-east corner). When we bought it 17 years ago, the areas labelled 1 and 2 and the house site had been previously cleared of understorey vegetation (with a few trees left) and were covered in weedy grass. The rest was remnant natural bush, mainly what is classified as heathy woodland in this locality, with a bit of grassy woodland on the north side. The natural, undisturbed soil in the bush area is deep grey sand supporting the heathy woodland and with a clay subsoil under the grassy woodland. The cleared areas 1 and 2 were mostly heavy clay infill, introduced after a previous owner removed the natural sandy soil and sold it for topsoil (we didn’t know that at the time—a neighbour told us later).

Areas 1 and 2 were the natural choice for the vegetable garden as there were minimal trees and it was in full sun for most of the day (the horrible, sticky, infill clay soil only became apparent after I tried to put a spade into it!). It also sloped slightly to the north, which meant good drainage.

We wanted to protect the bush section and arranged with the Trust for Nature Victoria to put a protective covenant on it, to prevent it ever being cleared. The covenant is binding on present and future owners. Of course, I now realise that there’s no such thing as ‘in perpetuity’, and it will eventually be cleared. I don’t expect an organisation like the Trust for Nature to survive the end of industrial civilisation, and the land will probably be wanted by a future owner to grow food during the collapse of industrial agriculture when oil seriously begins to run out. Nevertheless, I do my best to keep the bush intact and follow the management plan written by the Trust for the property.

We began clearing the weedy grass in area 1 for the vegetable garden, which started out by being 2 big wooden boxes, 2 m x 1 m x 90 cm high, into which was thrown anything and everything that would compost. I decided built-up beds would be easier than trying to dig that clay (and the rabbits which were starting to appear by then couldn’t reach up into the boxes). On the higher part of the slope above the boxes, we began planting 2 rows of fruit trees in zig-zag formation.

I grew quite a lot in those 2 boxes initially and as more home-made compost started to mount up I formed it into a long sausage shape on the ground. I thought it would be a good spot for pumpkins, having already learned that rabbits didn’t like pumpkin leaves.

The trouble was that the blackbirds loved the compost sausage and constantly dug into it, scattering it everywhere, exposing the plant roots and generally making a mess, as blackbirds always do. So I formed the compost into round piles and surrounded each one with a circle of wire about 80 cm in diameter. The wire circles mutated into what I called my ‘olympic rings’, but which a friend more aptly called ‘crop circles‘. They looked like this :

Eventually I ended up with 5 sets of rings, all in a row, making 35 individual growing areas—15 full rings and 20 half-rings. The growing medium in all of them was built up with composted material. The rings are 45 cm high and the compost, when I can get enough of it, is built up to about 20 cm.  The underlying soil wasn’t dug into at all. The wooden boxes were eventually abandoned.

Initially I watered by hand using water from the 9000 litre tank beside the house. The slope was enough to get a reasonable pressure by gravity alone. Later on, I made watering circles with fine sprays that I could just click the hose into and leave for half an hour or so. Sometimes I just prefer to stand there holding the hose. Hand watering is a favourite time for just observing, thinking and planning.

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Area 2 wasn’t developed as a food garden at all. I planted fast-growing wattles there to harvest for firewood, because cutting live trees from the bush was out of the question although there was plenty of dead stuff in there and branches were always falling. Areas 1 and 2 weren’t covered by the covenant—they were considered as the ‘domestic area’—where conservation isn’t the primary object.

When I did the permaculture design course six years ago, I realised that everything was badly designed, or rather, not designed at all and I set about trying to rectify it. The main food-growing area was too far from the house (zone 1), where it should have been, so, having discovered the wicking bed concept by then, I began establishing a series of wicking boxes and tubs around the house, for the more intensive growing typical of a zone 1 area. The ‘crop circles’ have been retained but mainly for winter crops, like garlic and leeks, where constant watering isn’t needed so much. All around them I’ve planted more fruit trees and other perennials to create a food forest.

Zone 1—wicking boxes and tubs near the house :

The 3 oval shapes to the right (north) of areas 1 and 2 were originally covered in weedy grass. I wanted some pools, so we slashed the grass and had a chap with an earth mover come in and dig out three pools (the 3 ovals). The overflow from the water tank runs down beside the path and into the first pool. It’s very shallow, only just above my ankles when full. Because of the slope, the water overflows into the second pool and then into the third. The second is a bit deeper, almost knee high and the third probably up to my thigh, although they have all become shallower over the years as debris accumulates on the bottom. The first pool usually dries out in summer and in a very dry summer the second will as well. There have only been a couple of summers when the third has dried out completely. Usually there’s a still a boggy puddle in the middle by the end of the season.

The first pool :

Stupidly, because of not knowing much about water plants, I planted reeds and rushes at the edges of the pools. Of course, they migrated towards the centre as water levels dropped and now there are no areas of water free of growth. The most prolific is the native Water Ribbons (Triglochin procera), which is supposed to have edible tubers utilised by the aborigines, but I’ve dug down almost to China and have never found anything remotely tuber-like to eat.  It has spread profusely from seed. At least the ducks like fossicking in amongst the strappy leaves. But it’s good nutrient for composting, so each summer as the water disappears I cut it down with hedge clippers and add it to the compost. When the rains come and the pools fill again, I get a couple of months of seeing actual water, before it all regrows again.

This is the second pool, looking towards the third. There is water in it, but it’s not exactly visible unless you’re standing right beside it. It is good frog habitat though (I’ve recorded 6 species), and a White-faced Heron comes regularly and stands quietly in the water, making frequent darts at edible goodies :

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The path on the right runs the full length of the property, from the house to the rear fence. On the right (south side) of the path is the food forest and on the north side of the pools is remnant bush, so it divides the property into 2 areas—conservation and food-growing.

I’m now thinking about what to do with area 2. Most of the woodlot trees have either died and fallen over, or fallen over while living and I’ve been removing them and tidying up the area. This is what it looks like at the moment :

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I’m thinking of extending the food forest into area 2. I’ve started to dig a few swales, with a view to planting fruit trees and I allowed edible chickweed to take over as a ground cover through the winter and spring. It has all died back now, but has left a useful legacy of millions of seeds. That’s self-sown Warrigal Greens (New Zealand Spinach) on the left and I’ve raked sticks into a hugelkulture mound with swale behind, on the right.  As a food forest it won’t get any watering, so I need to think about what I plant that will tolerate what are probably going to be drier and hotter summers. It means doing some research about plants that will survive with an average rainfall of 640 mm annually (about 25 inches). That’s the next big project.

What I’m going to do now is take a walk from the house down the path to the back fence (about 150 metres) taking photos all the way on the right hand side of the path. The bush will be on the left. So here we go.

I’m standing with the house about 2 metres behind me. First up, in the background, are some Manna Gums, not close enough to ever fall on the house, but big enough to flatten anything they did fall on :

Just some native plants underneath at present :

Past the first lot of Manna Gums and some more native plants and a couple more Manna Gums. There’s feijoa, redcurrant and tamarillo on the left. They’re planted in the drainage line that takes the grey water from the house. Never any watering needed there :

The gums aren’t very healthy and have already lost some huge branches. Further down the path—there are some hugelkultur beds just visible on the left of the path, with asparagus, rhubarb and an espaliered Granny Smith apple :

The seat is where I cut my kindling wood, with a bow saw (lay the branch on the seat, hold it down with a foot and cut—no, the branch, not the foot) :

Beyond that is a bath where I’ve been collecting rainwater and then comes the compost tumbler :

The bath is going to be converted into a dedicated potato bed and I’ve been filling it with weeds and prunings to compost down in preparation. There’s still water in it and I’ll have to reach down through the gunk and find the plug to pull before I can get the potato bed going. That’s a pumpkin sprawling over the top of the kindling heap.

Behind the tumbler are 2 compost heaps inside wire cages and an elderly compost bin, acquired from a friend who didn’t want it. The bin takes weeds and shares veggie scraps with the worm farm, which is under the house. One of the compost heaps (with the blue tarp), takes the material from the composting toilet and the other takes just weeds and other debris. Slow composting. I’m not into tossing stuff around with a pitchfork. Haven’t got the energy anymore :

We’re now coming to the main food forest area and the row of crop circles in the foreground. Behind are citrus trees—Japanese Seedless Mandarin, Valencia Orange, Washington Navel Orange and Lisbon Lemon. Behind them, an Imperial Mandarin that doesn’t do well. Oh, it produces lots of mandarins, but they’re only golf ball size, if that. I generally don’t bother picking them. I read that Imperials don’t do well in Melbourne. I think it’s more a case of it doesn’t get enough summer water for its liking and it’s at the top of the slope, so probably a bit too well drained. I’ve dug individual small swales behind each fruit tree and I fill these with water once a week during summer. I’ve planted 5 tamarillos within the crop circles, thinking that when I watered the veggies in the circles the tamarillos would get watered too. They survive OK but those big floppy leaves need a lot of water and they eventually end up as trunks with all the leaves at the top (the one in the foreground is newly planted) :

A bit further down and there’s a lime in the back row and in front an apricot (Moor Park variety), a self-sown plum, a couple of d’Anjou pears and a seedling Red Delicious apple (hasn’t set a lot of fruit—it’s due for the chop). The thornless blackberries are under the net on the left. This section on the right is at the bottom of the slope, there are no swales for each fruit tree and they seem to do well enough without a lot of summer watering. I suspect water is moving down through the soil from the swales on the slope above :

Further down the path (the 3 pools are now on my left) and there’s a quince, loquat, plums further back and asparagus (gone to fern) in front. Somewhere in there as well, there’s a dwarf Stella cherry, 2 pears, 2 apples and a seedling-grown apricot :

Now we’re coming to area 2 which is what I want to open up as another food forest. There’s a couple of huge wattles beside the path (a Black Wattle and a Blackwood) and a seat that has seen better days which, if you sit on it (don’t try it until I’ve hammered all the nails back in), you will be facing the third pool in front of you:

Now we’re past the seat and another shot of the area I want to add to the food forest :

We’re almost at the end of the path—it curves round to the left here and runs along the rear of the property, but since a huge branch of a Swamp Gum (half the tree, in fact), fell across it, there’s no access. The neighbour behind me says he will come and cut it up for me when I’m ready. He’ll get the big logs (which I can’t split) and I’ll get the smaller stuff. There’s a gravel path under all those leaves—just haven’t raked it for a while :

Finally, a couple of photos of the bush section. There are numerous walking and maintenance tracks through it.

From the deck :

Further in :

Along one of the walking tracks :

And that’s about it. It’s a lot of work, looking after the food-growing areas and managing the bush, but I couldn’t go back to living in quarter-acre suburbia again. It is so quiet here; the neighbours are far enough away to not be visible or audible (yet they are friendly and helpful when you do see them) and it’s amazing how the presence of so many trees moderates the climate by creating coolness on hot days. I am incredibly fortunate to live here.

March update

March 30, 2017

Well, summer is officially over, but the weather remained warm all through March, with temperatures in the high 20’s and sometimes nudging into the low 30’s.

I’ve pulled out most of the tomatoes—the plants looked awful, with dead, shrivelled lower leaves, extending upwards in some cases. Surprisingly, yields were pretty good, especially of the cherries, but then there were more plants of those than the bigger varieties. I didn’t bother to dry any cherries, but instead froze a large box of them, to use for winter soups and casseroles. There’s still one self-sown plant going well in a wicking box down the back, just starting to bear fruits.

I picked 2 more eggplants and there are still 3 on the plants plus a couple more flowers which may produce fruits. I’ll definitely grow these again next season. Six fruits from 3 plants wasn’t a bad effort for a first-time growing :

I decided to try peas in a ‘tepee’. It’s worked well for beans in the past. These are a tall, purple-podded variety. They germinated well….. :

…..and after a week or so I put up the supporting strings for them to climb on :

I’ve put more peas in a wicking box. These are a short-stemmed variety which have a lot of tendrils so they hang onto each other. I’ll just put 4 stakes in the corners of the box with a string around them to keep the whole bunch from falling over and that should do. The tiny seedlings are self-sown chickweed which the chooks will get eventually :

I may get some pumpkins this year. There are 2 on this plant. With any luck they’ll get big enough to ripen before the weather breaks:

Capsicums, sharing a wicking box with climbing beans, are fruiting :

The prize for the top-bearing plants this season would have to go to the 5 thornless blackberry plants I put in 2 years ago. At the height of the season I was picking a small handful of delicious berries every couple of days. I decided I would definitely get more bare-rooted plants from my local nursery this winter and then discovered Bunnings had them for sale in small pots. They’re a Nelly Kelly variety :

I’ve put one in a large tub beside the deck and will train it up onto the deck :

I haven’t decided where to plant the second one yet. I didn’t keep the tag of the original plants and think they were just called ‘thornless blackberries’, without a variety name. They were just pencil-sized, bare-rooted stems when I planted them. These Nelly Kelly varieties have thin little stems and small leaves. Maybe that’s just due to being young plants in pots. It will be interesting to see how they turn out.

It’s been a good year for pepinos :

The new season’s silver beet is also bearing well in a wicking box :

I had a wicking box on the deck with Gotu Kola (Centella asiatica) in it. Also known as arthritis plant, it’s native to Asia and is reputed to cure many ills as well as arthritis. I intended to use it to make a herbal tea, but didn’t like the bitter flavour and so it wasn’t used much. I planted a pepino in there to keep it company. A self-sown alpine strawberry also appeared :

The pepino grew well and produced several fruits but eventually got big and woody and I hacked it back, not caring whether it sprouted again or not, because I had others in the garden. It didn’t…..and the gotu kola took over. I trimmed it back occasionally but generally ignored it.  Finally, it occurred to me that the wicking box was just being wasted and I’d be better to plant it with something I would actually use.

So, I tipped it on its side and then upended it :

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As I suspected, the bottom half of the soil mixture was bone dry and the roots in it were dead. I’d been watering it every day, but the water was running out of the drainage holes before it was able to soak into the soil and saturate the lower reservoir. The plant had been living on its daily drink. The box just had too much growth in it.

The dry soil was friable and worth saving. There had been worms in it and they’d either died or moved on, so it was likely most of the soil would be worm castings. I broke it up with the spade and sieved it :

I got a large tub of soil that will be useful as a seed-raising mix :

I filled the wicking box with new compost and sowed seeds of mizuna, a fast-growing Asian green, which both I and the chooks like :

A few weeks later and it looked like this :

The grassy stuff is wheat. The chooks don’t eat the wheat in their grain mix and wherever I use the chook poo compost made with the floor sweepings from their run, I get wheat germinating. I decided to leave it there. The chooks will only eat wheat if it’s sprouted first, so it makes some sense to grow it for them for sprouting. I used to grow it years ago, but gave up when the parrots kept raiding the ears while they were green. Because there are still cabbage white butterflies about (and will be, until the weather gets colder), I’ve had to put a cover over the box to prevent the female butterflies laying eggs on the mizuna :

Mosquito netting is the only thing that will keep the butterflies out. I’ve always used half-inch netting in the past but was stunned to see a butterfly fold her wings back and actually squeeze through it. So now I have a (relatively) new wicking box with a more useful crop.

I planted garlic on the equinox. Only a few cloves have sprouted—not worth a photo. I’ve failed dismally with garlic the last couple of years, but I still keep trying. Last year the plants rotted away in winter; the year before that they didn’t produce any bulbs. I’ve had good garlic in the past—don’t know what I’m doing wrong. I felt a bit better when my Italian neighbours told me their garlic has failed too—if Italians can’t grow garlic, there must be something more at work than my own incompetence.

I tend to divide my growing year into 2 seasons—spring/summer (October-March) and autumn/winter (April-September) and always grow more food in the spring/summer season. In total, in the season just finished, I managed to grow about 30 varieties of food, including more than a dozen different fruits; 6 greens; 4 root crops; onions and leeks and asparagus, plus a variety of herbs. Oh, and eggs (the Girls helped with those). There wasn’t a huge amount of anything (except maybe tomatoes), but I’m aiming for diversity anyway. Pretty happy with what I’m able provide for myself.

We had 37 mm rainfall in March; 32 mm in the 3rd week and 5 mm in the final week. Melbourne’s average is 44 mm. Let’s hope the warm weather and rain continues through autumn.

Postscript

Those thornless blackberries from Bunnings—

I went out to take a few more pics for this post and noticed that the blackberry I put in the large tub by the deck had a flower on it :

It’s white! The other thornless blackberries I bought at the local nursery had pink flowers :

So there is a difference. I think I need to do some research on thornless blackberries. As I understand it, they’re hybrids of the normal blackberry with something else. Something else what? The first 5 plants I put in have had really good yields. I hope these 2 new varieties are as good.

Feeling fine about the end of the world as we know it?

March 20, 2017

An interesting look at human behaviour. Not sure if it makes me feel positive or negative about the future.

See what you think.

Wildlife carers

March 14, 2017

I have a wildlife carer living 5 minutes from me. Over the years I’ve taken ducks, baby birds and possums to her for attention. Today I took a little sugar glider that had become entangled in the barbed wire on the top of the fence (god knows why it was ever put on the fencing here……this isn’t farming country).

A neighbour helped to cut the wire while I held him tight. He was very feisty, yelling abuse at us and biting. I popped him, with the wire still attached, into a pillowcase and took him to the “nice lady down the road who will look after you.”

I’m always amazed at the dedication of wildlife carers. They’re on call 24/7. It’s nothing to have to get up in the wee small hours to feed tiny, furry creatures special wildlife ‘sustagen’ with an eyedropper.

Once, when I called in, she had an injured cormorant in the shower recess. She would open the door and throw it a fish. Another time there was a baby wombat in the spare bedroom. Most of the patients are outside though, in various cages and nest boxes.

Wildlife carers receive some government assistance. But most pay out of their own pockets for the huge quantities of special food and housing that they need. I always make sure when I take her an injured animal that I give her something towards its care. Even just donating unwanted bird cages or offering to make little ‘possum bags’ out of material scraps can be a help.

If you have a wildlife carer in your area, why not call in and see if you can offer any help. Some of them need volunteers to go and pick up injured wildlife, because they can’t often get away to do it themselves. They do a tremendous job, working quietly away in the background to help the tiny creatures that so often are the victims of thoughtless human activities.

I’m writing this because she’s just phoned me back to say the little glider went to the vet and was anaesthetised while he was disentangled from the wire and his injuries were stitched up. Now he’ll be on antibiotics for about 10 days. There’s a good chance he’ll make a full recovery and then I’ll go down and pick him up and release him back into his own home.

The carer tells me that we are gradually losing these species one by one, quietly, in the background and very few people are aware or care. It’s heart-breaking.

Grounded

March 10, 2017

Interesting post from Ugo Bardi at Cassandra’s Legacy blog. I had no idea how jet engines work, so learned a few things from the video about fuel consumption and the relative costs of flying.

The bottom line is that oil running out will be the end of powered flight. No oil, no fly. Ah, well….it was always for the birds anyway.

 

“Peak Speed” for the World’s Airlines

So, it is true: planes fly slower nowadays! The video, above, shows that plane trips are today more than 10% longer than they were in the 1960s and 1970s for the same distance. Airlines, it seems, attained their “peak speed” during those decades.

Clearly, today airlines have optimized the performance of their planes to minimize costs. But they were surely optimizing their business practices also before the peak and, at that time, the results they obtained must have been different. The change took place when they started using the current oil prices for their models and they found that they had to slow down. You see in the chart below what happened to the oil market after 1970. (Brent oil prices, corrected for inflation, source)

It is remarkable how things change. Do you remember the hype of the 1950s and 1960s? The people who opposed the building of supersonic passenger planes were considered to be against humankind’s manifest destiny. Speed had to increase because it had always been doing so and technology would have provided us with the means to continue moving faster.

 Rising oil prices dealt a death blow to that attitude. The supersonic Concorde was a flying mistake that was built nevertheless (a manifestation of French Grandeur). Fortunately, other weird ideas didn’t make it, such as the sub-orbital plane that should have shot passengers from Paris to New York in less than one hour.

If this story tells us something is that, in the fight between technological progress and oil depletion, oil depletion normally wins. Airlines are especially fuel-hungry and they have no alternatives to liquid fuels. So, despite all the best technologies, the only way for them to cope with higher oil prices was to slow down planes, it was as simple as that.

Even slower planes, though, still need liquid fuels that are manufactured from oil. We may go back to propeller planes for even better efficiency, but the problem remains: no oil, no planes, at least not the kind of planes that allow normal people to fly, something that, nowadays, looks like an obvious feature of our life. But, as I said before, things change!

February update

February 26, 2017

Well, it looks like summer is almost over and a coolish one it was. We didn’t have any days over 40º C and the ones in the 30’s didn’t drag on for days on end, but were punctuated by cooler days. Hot, northerly winds on the hot days were conspicuous by their absence. It was calm, simmering, fry-an-egg-on-the-footpath heat.

It has been the worst year for tomatoes I can remember. The cold wet spring meant I didn’t get them planted till early November and straightway they started to get blight—late or early, I can never work out which—but the lower leaves get yellow patches and brown spots and gradually that creeps up the stem leaves. This time they got some other sort of lurgi as well, where the lower leaves just went brown and shrivelled. I’ve never had that before. Luckily, the upper leaves just managed to keep ahead, but the whole lot looked very sick and sad. But at least the cherries started to ripen this month :

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I’m not drying any this year—I haven’t got enough, the weather hasn’t been great for sun-drying and I still have plenty of dried ones left over from last year. I’ll freeze the excess instead and use them for casseroles and soups in winter. I still have 2 packs of frozen cherries from last year in the freezer.

The eggplants are doing well, flowering and setting fruits. There are just three, in one large tub :

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I’ve never grown them before—in fact I’m not even sure if I like them. I’ve eaten them out but never bought them to cook at home. If they’re going to be easy to grow, I guess I can learn to like them!

I grew these Italian Long Red (rossa lunga) salad onions again this year, because they were so easy :

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And so pretty :

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The seedling-grown purple muscatel grape is setting a couple of bunches for the first time :

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I tried one and they’re surprisingly quite sweet even at this stage. I hope they grow a bit bigger and I’ll wait till they colour up before picking them.

These are carrots from a wicking box. I agree, they wouldn’t win any prizes! I think the wicking boxes aren’t deep enough to get a good, long carrot. Not to worry—they’ll make good lunchtime nibbles.

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Apples are ripening :

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Those in the big basket are from a seedling tree, grown from a seed of Red Delicious. Apples are notorious for not coming true to seed. It looks like they have a few Granny Smith genes in them, which wouldn’t surprise me, as the 2 original varieties are growing next to each other. Those on the top right are the real Red Delicious, just starting to colour up and those at the lower right are Cox’s Orange Pippin. I bought it because it’s supposed to be the Queen of apples (or something like that) but I can’t say the flavour is anything to write home about. The good ol’ Red Delicious is still my favourite and there’ll be a good harvest this year because I have a net over the tree :

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I keep poking my head under to check :

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I’m going to dry as many as I can :

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I planted some of the turmeric tubers I grew last year (and kept some back for drying) and they’ve sprouted and the plant has grown even bigger than last year :

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I’ve kept the pot in the polyhouse over summer and now there’s not really enough room for both of us, so I’m wondering whether to risk putting it outside for the winter. Has anyone grown it outside this far south?

The Girls have all moulted and stopped laying, so I’m buying eggs at the moment. Nice, new shiny coats for the winter :

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This is Evening Primrose. It’s self-seeded and more or less taken over this spot beside the pool :

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I grow it for the seeds (when the parrots don’t get them). The oil in the seeds is supposed to have a high concentration of gamma-linoleic acid (GLA) which is good for reducing inflammation. According to a study reported in the Lancet, GLA-rich evening primrose oil was found effective in controlling rheumatoid arthritis in a substantial number of patients. I have RA so I’ll try anything that helps. I put the seeds in my bread.

Finally getting enough Purple King climbing beans for a feed. They’re on a wire frame at the rear of a wicking box, which also contains basil, parsley and some self-sown mizuna. I really get my money’s worth out of a wicking box! :

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Looks like I’ll get quinces again this year. I’ve protected some with apple socks (the one on the lower left) and the birds or possums have had a go at a few (upper left) but mostly they’re untouched. The tree still gets those brown fungal spots on the leaves but I’m not into spraying with chemicals, so it has to cope as best it can :

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Pepinos are ready to ripen :

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We had 2 nice dumps of rain in February—one of 37 mm and one of 40 mm—exceeding Melbourne’s monthly average of 46 mm. There were a couple of smaller falls as well. It topped up the tank and made a huge difference to the garden, especially to the size of the apples which I hadn’t bothered to thin.

Roll on autumn. The nicest time of year in Melbourne (usually).

 

Postscript

That eggplant. I wasn’t sure when to pick it. The experts said, ‘when it’s black and shiny’. So….. :

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Yes, I know. Laughter is permitted, but rude comments are not!

Mini Cape Gooseberry

February 21, 2017

I’m really pleased with this plant. I wrote about it when I purchased it at Bunnings a couple of months ago. It looked like this :

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The label said it was a Cape Gooseberry….. :

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…..but I disagree. I think it’s a related species, Physalis pruinosa, or a form of it. The typical, or more common Cape Gooseberry is Physalis peruviana. I grew P. pruinosa years ago and it was called Cossack Pineapple then, because the berries had a distinctive pineapple flavour. This one is similar although not so pineapple-y, but much sweeter than P. peruviana, even when the berries are still green. Unripe P. peruviana are sour little mouthfuls, not at all pleasant.

I went back and bought another plant and put one in a medium-sized pot on the deck :

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The other went into a large tub beside the water tank :

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This one grew larger because it had more root room, plus it was a wicking tub.

They’ve both produced lots of flowers and berries, which has more than made up for the fact that the berries are smaller than Cape Gooseberries :

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The fruits are enclosed in a papery husk which is the remains of the flower’s calyx. It keeps them protected from birds. If not picked, they fall when ripe and any little critters wandering around on the ground will find them and get through the husk to the fruits. Sometimes fruits fall when they are still green, but don’t seem to ripen any further. The husk is folded back and given a twist to free the fruit :

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I left a dishful on the bench and noticed they were shrivelling up and looking like sultanas, so I’m putting extras in the dehydrator :

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Seeds are easy to extract from the fruits and I’m expecting them to germinate readily, like their bigger cousins. When I’ve sown them, I’ll report back. Looking forward to trying plants in the garden, but it seems they don’t tolerate cold conditions, so growing them as an annual may be the way to go in our temperate climate.