Not exactly doing well…..

February 4, 2017

This clump of foliage, 2 metres above my head, is a Japanese Raisin Tree :


Here’s a really good lot of information on the species from Temperate Climate Permaculture. My tree does NOT look like the one in the picture.

This is what I see at eye-level :


Each year it grows another foot, drops its leaves in autumn and grows a new lot in spring. That’s all it does!

My propagation records show that I bought the seed from Green Harvest and sowed it on 17th March, 2003. It germinated in 10 days and I potted up ONE seedling. This must be IT.  The records show that I planted it in February, 2006. Did it really take that long to reach plantable size? Apparently. I bought more seed 3 years later, but it appears none of it germinated. The notes I wrote at the time say, “seeds disturbed by mouse”. I expect the little blighter ate the lot and that’s why they didn’t germinate.

There was a time when I bought all sorts of weird and wonderful seeds to try and grow a variety of food plants. Berry bushes from the northern hemisphere and so on. This must be one of those.  Most of them either didn’t germinate, or did, but died when I planted them. I’ve given up that lark. Much better to grow what’s been grown here traditionally and will definitely produce something to eat.

At least my Raisin Tree hasn’t died. The linked article says it can take up to 10 years to flower and has a ‘useful life’ of 50-100 years. It’s more than likely my ‘useful life’ will be over before I see it flower. I’d need binoculars to see what it’s doing way up there anyway.

I’ve been wondering about the possibility of growing a grapevine up the trunk. Then I might actually get some real ‘raisins’.

At last…..

January 30, 2017

…..tomatoes and beans. My cup runneth over :


But wait….there’s more :


I love this self-sufficiency lark!

The implications of collapsing ERoEI

January 26, 2017

Judging by the relatively low level of interest the past few articles published here regarding the collapse of fossil fuel ERoEI (along with PV’s) have attracted, I can only conclude that mos…

Source: The implications of collapsing ERoEI

Reblogged from Damn the Matrix

Forget 1984…. 2020 is the apocalypse year

January 26, 2017

The crescendo of news pointing to 2020 as the date to watch is growing apace…. it won’t be the year collapse happens, because collapse is a process, not an event; but it will definitely…

Source: Forget 1984…. 2020 is the apocalypse year

Reblogged from Damn the Matrix


Oh, to be a fly on the wall as it unfolds…

January update

January 23, 2017

First thing I did in January was to buy myself a present. A toy oven! So, what’s a toy oven, you ask? OK, read this post from Maree at Around The Mulberry Tree.

Now, I’m nowhere near as good a cook as Maree (let’s be honest, I rarely cook, not fancy stuff anyway), but I thought a bench-top oven would be easier to use, would heat up more quickly (which it does—5 minutes to 180 degrees C, compared with 15 minutes for the wall oven!) and therefore be more economical with power. (For the detail-minded, it’s a Sunbeam 19 litre Pizza Bake & Grill model #BT 5350 and was $96 at the Good Guys.)

I found a spot on the bench without too much fuss :


When the weather finally cooled down, I tried a tray of roast veggies. Very happy with the result. Cooked in less time than the big oven and the potatoes were nice and floury. Next up was bread—I make a loaf about once a fortnight.

Ooops! Not so good :


The bread tin almost fills the oven! I let it rise too high in the tin beforehand and watched in panic as it rose towards the top elements, ready to whip it out before it touched them. Luckily it just fell short, but as you can see, not a nicely browned top!

I’d cut the temp back to 165 from 180, following recommendations in the manual, but the rest of the crust was too pale in comparison to my normal loaf, so next time I will put it back to 180. I don’t want to fiddle about with the recipe to make a smaller loaf (there too many ingredients), so next time I will put the tin slightly lower (turning the wire rack upside down lowers it by a couple of centimetres), and try putting a piece of foil over the top halfway through. I won’t let it rise so much beforehand either. Despite the lower temperature, it was cooked right through and wasn’t doughy.

I’ve since made a batch of choc muffins which was a success (no photo…I forgot) and will get the bread right eventually. On the whole, very happy with my new ‘toy’.

Out in the garden, the thornless blackberries were starting to colour up, so it was time to get a net over them :



They’re ripening unevenly and I discovered I have to be careful picking them because if I leave them to get too ripe, they fall from the bunch when I touch it and I lose them in amongst the ground cover of native violets underneath. I love their shiny blackness :


So the trick is to wander down the back to the blackberry patch before breakfast and pick the ripe ones, which then end up on my breakfast bowl of mueslii and fruit. I’m definitely going to put in more plants of this variety this winter :


The ‘mini’ Cape Gooseberry I bought a couple of months ago is doing well and setting fruits :


They’re much smaller than the normal variety I’ve been growing :


The flavour is quite different, much sweeter, and am I imagining it, or are there hints of pineapple? It might not be imagination, because some years ago I grew a definitely pineapple-flavoured variety from Phoenix Seeds, called Cossack Pineapple. It isn’t in their current catalogue but Googling will find other suppliers who do have it. It’s another species of Physalis—Physalis pruinosa (the common Cape Gooseberry is P. peruviana—that’s it in the photo above, on the right). I’m going to extract the seeds from the ‘mini’ fruit and grow more. It’s lower-growing and more spreading than the common gooseberry, with a neater habit and is a good plant for a large pot or tub (I put the two plants I bought from Bunnings in large pots). I might even try one in a wicking box.

The hugelkultur beds alongside the main pathway are taking a while to break down. I’ve planted asparagus and rhubarb in the longer one and an espaliered dwarf Granny Smith apple and two pepinos in the smaller one. The rhubarb’s not doing so well—it needs more feeding. I tidied up the beds, removed weeds and covered them with mulched bracken. The blackbirds persisted in tossing the mulch all over the path and I was sick of raking it back onto the beds, so I’ve edged them with short (1 metre long) sticks cut from the dozens of branches that are always falling in the bush. It seems to have done the trick. I’ve only done the edge that fronts the path so far, but will eventually do the rear edge, too :



I’ve decided I need a dedicated potato bed—one that I can grow an actual crop of potatoes in, instead of just poking odd ones that sprout in the cupboard under the sink into any convenient spot. I can go back to buying a bag of certified seed potatoes again each winter like I used to do. I can also use the bed for other root crops like yacon and Jerusalem artichoke. So I’ve decided to use one of the three second-hand baths I have. Two were being used to grow azolla, the floating water fern, and I don’t really need two for that, so the one next to the compost tumbler is being re-purposed. I bucketed out most of the water and began filling it with weeds and other prunings so they’d rot down and provide a good base of organic stuff. Then it rained and the bath re-filled again. The water is now a rich, black, very stinky nutrient-rich liquid that should grow anything. I’ll have to bucket out most of it again, before reaching through the mire to find and pull the plug, but I’ll use it to water other crops until then :


The Magpie Larks in their mud nest on the TV aerial finally fledged three young ones :


They managed to keep them alive in that exposed nest through Christmas day with the temperature in the high 30’s and, a couple of days later, through a downpour that delivered 30 mm in half an hour. They’ve left the nest now and are constantly yelling “feed me” from the branches of a nearby tree. Mum and Dad Mudlark deserve a medal for devoted parenthood.

Last year I had a go at growing eggplant, but the seedlings didn’t make it into the garden. This is this year’s effort :


If I’d known it was going to have such huge leaves, I’d have chosen a shadier spot. It has flower buds already so I’m hoping for some fruit this year.

My dwarf Stella cherry didn’t do so well in its third year, with only a dozen or so fruit. Last year it had about 20 and I sowed most of the pips in a pot and left them through the winter. Disappointingly, only one germinated. I’ll plant it somewhere and see how it goes :


I had better luck with seeds from the Concord grape variety which produced one small bunch last year. I potted up 6 seedlings from this pot :


Oak-leaf lettuce, endive and carrots in wicking boxes—all direct-sown. So much easier than potting up and transplanting seedlings :




This, believe it or not, is 2 cucumbers in a recycling crate (not wicking—there are drainage holes in the bottom) :


Ordinarily, I’d be assuming I’d mixed up the labels and planted pumpkins instead, but I knew I didn’t have pumpkins sown at the time. The crate was filled with chook poo compost and just shows what lots of nitrogen will do for leaf size. Here are what my normal cucumbers look like, in a wicking box on the deck, only topped up with a bit of chook poo compost :


I thought I’d have another go at growing Goji berries. I tried several years ago but they didn’t survive in the garden. I think I wasn’t au fait with my soil types then, in terms of what should be planted where and probably put them in the wrong spot. So I took some dried berries out of a trail mix I’d bought (previously, I’d just bought a packet of berries in the supermarket) and soaked them in water till they swelled up, then I scraped out the seeds and sowed them and I have 4 plants to play with. This time I’ll do some homework before I plant them. I’ll probably try one in a large pot as well, just to be on the safe side :


Still no ripe tomatoes or beans. This is the latest they’ve ever been, owing to the cool wet spring we had. I’m starting to suffer withdrawal symptoms for a nice, home-grown tomato sandwich.

That’s about it for January. We had 18 mm of rain in one event mid-way through (the average for Melbourne for January is 47 mm) and another 25 mm a week later, which will help swell the February apple harvest. We’ve had some hot days, but nothing over 40 C as yet and no really hot, northerly winds which freak me out because of the bushfire risk. I always count down the days to the end of summer and breathe a sigh of relief when we get through another summer without a fire.

For bird lovers….

January 5, 2017

….. a selection of the ABC’s best bird pics of the week to scroll through.

And here’s my personal favourite, a King Parrot, who visits regularly for a meal of sunflower seeds.


The Deck

December 31, 2016

The deck isn’t for outdoor entertaining—there’s no room. Instead, it’s for outdoor growing—a variety of edibles in pots, tubs and wicking boxes.

Looking west, there are mostly tomatoes and strawberries sharing wicking boxes and tubs and strawberry wicking buckets with just strawberries :


There’s a couple of cucumbers in one wicking box and they can scramble over the deck and be free of ground-dwelling critters which might chew them :


In the other direction, more wicking boxes with climbing beans and capsicums in one and parsley, basil and more climbing beans in another :


Against the house wall, there’s a blueberry in a large pot and strawberry wicking buckets on stands :


There’s even room for a pond of sorts, with a solar-powered pump and water spray :


Down below the deck there are more wicking boxes and tubs, with tomatoes, climbing beans and the little Australian native Finger Lime in a large tub next to the gas bottles. The climbing beans are on wire frames set in behind the pots and when they’ve climbed to the top of those, I put string lines up onto the deck railing to extend their support  :



I’ve put more climbing beans in the milk bottle planters which will be going through their second summer. I expected the plastic would degrade and fall to bits long before this, but it’s hanging in there. They’ve got string lines also, to take the tendrils right up onto the deck. When they get to the top, I just wind the climbing ends around the deck wires :


First (very small) crop :


On the other side of the path around the base of the deck is another row of wicking boxes and tubs, with more tomatoes, capsicums and whatever else can be poked into a spare growing space :


And finally, a grapevine growing along the deck wires and the top railing. This is a purple muscat grape which I grew from seed :


It’s planted in the ground beside the steps up onto the deck. It’s been in about 4 years and has never flowered. But look! This year there are 2 small bunches of soon-to-be grapes hidden under the leaves :


The deck and surrounds are my permaculture Zone 1 growing spaces (permaculture design creates zones—areas around the house, based on frequency of use—there are usually 5 in all). Zone 1 is the zone nearest the house, which you visit at least once and probably more than once, a day. You plant all the things you use regularly—such as herbs, and leafy veggies where you want just a few leaves at a time. It’s a short step out onto the deck to pick herbs for dinner or a few strawberries for breakfast mueslii. The chooks are in zone 1 also, just a few metres from the deck.

Originally, I had all my vegetable beds right down the back, 30 or 40 metres from the house, because it was the only spot away from trees and in full sun. It was stupid—I was never going to walk all that way (especially if it was raining), just to get a sprig of parsley for the mashed potatoes. The permaculture design course I did just blew me away—it showed me how we do silly, unworkable things when we put a garden together, without any conscious thought or design as to our use of physical energy, or the connections between things. I’ve had to do a lot of retrofitting—using the deck as a growing space has been a real success.

Who needs to entertain anyway?

The Thin Green Line

December 24, 2016

Here’s a story from the Guardian about wildlife poaching in Africa.

Wildlife Rangers, whose job is to project wildlife, not just in Africa, but around the world, are being killed in action. If we want these iconic animals to survive into the future (what would the world be like without elephants), we need to support those who are trying to protect them and giving up their lives in the process.

Sean Willmore formed the Thin Green Line Foundation to assist and protect Rangers around the world and equally important, to help the families of those Rangers killed on the job. Check out their website at the link to read their story and see what they do.

I’m writing this because I have a connection of sorts to Sean. He’s an Aussie and back when we bought this bush block, Sean was Conservation Officer in the City of Frankston where I live.  He was also an assessor with the Land for Wildlife voluntary wildlife protection scheme which operates in the state of Victoria. We applied for LFW registration for our property and Sean was the one who came out and assessed it. A great guy—his talents were wasted at our local Council and I’m glad to see he’s moved on to greater things.

I’ve donated to the Thin Green Line in the past and will do so again. It’s a bit late now for this year, but it would make a great Christmas present for a friend or family member next year, to donate to the Foundation in their name, instead of spending money on a glitzy present, then giving them a card to say what you’ve done with the money you would have spent on their present. I know I’d much rather have someone do that than give me a present.

Here’s a short video of Sean being interviewed about the work of the Foundation :

Please consider donating to The Thin Green Line.



Vale Toby Hemenway

December 22, 2016

I just heard, through another blog, that Toby Hemenway passed away on the 20th December. Toby was a well-known permaculturalist and speaker and the author of Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture. A few weeks ago, a regular reader, Chris, from Gully Grove blog made a comment here and left a link to a video of one of Toby’s talks. I watched it with interest and was going to post it here eventually, but then found a similar video which I think is slightly better. So here is Toby, who will be greatly missed in permaculture circles :

How do we know what to believe?

December 21, 2016

Fake News is in the—er—news at the moment, with Facebook and other outlets assuring everyone they’re going to clamp down on it. So how do we know what, or whom to believe?

I found a new blog recently called Neurologica—your daily fix of neuroscience, scepticism and critical thinking. The writer has a good post up at the moment : Skeptical Questions Everyone Should Ask. I found it really useful and a good follow-up to the FutureLearn course in logical and critical thinking I did recently.

“But there is no substitute for going through the process yourself. The process is also open-ended and is never done. This includes developing a basic scientific literacy and critical thinking skills.”

Unfortunately, like ‘common sense’, scientific literacy and critical thinking are not all that common.

Maybe it is better to believe nothing, apart from what you can see, hear, taste, smell and feel. For instance, I can ‘see’ flowers on my persimmon. I ‘believe’ I am going to be eating persimmons next winter. Yum :