Introduction to Permaculture and Farm Tour

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Come and visit on Saturday afternoon, 12th September, after the Violet Town market. Shepparton naturopath Mel Hall of the GV Food Gardens group has arranged to combine an introduction to permaculture with a home and farm tour. All welcome.

Come at 1pm for a shared picnic lunch at 1pm on the farm. Look for the people when you come in the gate. We’ll be busy getting unpacked from the market, and will see you at 1.30.

Sat 12 Sept, 1.30pm $25 adult, 15-18yrs $5, under 15 free.  800m from the market site, here.

Queries to Mel’s facebook event page, or to murrnong@gmail.com

The acorns are dropping, it’s time to pick them up

If there is a well established oak tree somewhere near you that you have admired, (and you live in the southern hemisphere) about now could be the time to collect some acorns and plant them. Don’t be put off by the moderate growth rate, the quality of the result in the longer term is well worth it, and you don’t have to hold your breath while they grow.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We collected these acorns yesterday from magnificent old street trees in Violet Town. I propagate from old trees well proven in this climate and landscape. Our seedlings from these trees are just this year bearing their first acorns, in fact some of those are the lighter acorns in the top picture. These particular acorns have been carefully selected for their freshness and firmness, for planting.  Mostly we just rake the acorns up, remove most of the dirt and leaves in a big sieve, and store for goat feed over the next few months.  The goats make their own firm decisions about which ones they will eat.  The goats’ milk becomes more mellow, richer and creamier 24hrs after their first feed of acorns in the autumn.

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March 2015   Dappled light coming through the heavy shade of oaks planted here in 2006. The canopies are still small, but growing well. Heavy shade, soil improving qualities, fire retardant, beauty, and acorns for concentrated autumn fodder are why we planted these. These are possibly Algerian oaks. These trees are only semi-deciduous, staying green until the end of July, going brown in Autumn, then dropping their old leaves just as the new growth comes. This makes them well adapted to this relatively hot and dry climate, as they are able to make use of the usually more moist conditions in winter.

We have been planting oaks here since 1996.  We were collecting acorns for autumn goat feed supplement anyway, so it was a no-brainer to try planting them. This is the oak establishment method that has worked best here, on this farm in this climate.

  1. Autumn, approx March yr1.      Collect or source acorns, keep in a damp cool place [eg in veg garden soil] or in a plastic bag in the fridge over the first winter.
  2. Late Winter, August yr1       Plant in veg garden if you haven’t already done so
  3. Summer, yr1   Grow in veg garden over the first summer.  A couple of times over summer drive a spade about 30cm under the tree seedlings, to cut the tap root and encourage more shallow root development.
  4. Late Winter, August yr2     dig up from veg garden, prune excessively long roots, and plant out into spots or rip lines cleared of grass, with whatever compost you can spare.
  5. Spring yr2    Keep about a 1m radius around the tree clear of strong competitive grass for the first summer in the field
  6. Spring yr3   Clear strong grass away from young trees again to give them a chance to grow with the Spring moisture and warmth.

prewatering to plant oaks, Nov 06

Nov 2006. The first year of planting, David follow up watering in acorns seeded direct into rip lines, in a drought year…….. I must have been keen!  That area looks a lot nicer now. The previous photo, of the foliage, was taken about 6m to the right from here.

We have not tried leaching the tannins from acorns so we can eat them ourselves, but some friends do, and there is lots of information available about this, for example here.

Calm autumn weather perfect for opening up hives

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March 22nd 2015 Backyard Bees workshop 

With two consecutive Sundays of perfect warm, calm conditions, bees preoccupied with good nearby forage on our Spotted Gums in full flower, and a range of improvised and purpose made protective clothing, we had two terrific Backyard Bees workshops this autumn. Everyone handled and closely inspected frames covered in bees, and only one thinly gloved hand felt a bite. Nga was fine.

Suzie said “I really enjoyed the bee keeping workshop on Sunday. We came away very inspired and will definitely be getting bees.”

Steve said  “Thank you for the day it was fantastic.  I just needed exactly what you provided to round off and understand what I have been doing.  I was particularly taken by the time that you had the hive open.  I tend to be a little freaked about leaving the hive open, but not anymore as the bees were quite happy with what you/we were doing.”

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March 29 2015 Backyard Bees workshop

Pears, for eating and drying

Many of the people who come and help here bring terrific skills with them. Hi Wong is here for a three month internship. He is a skilled chef who enjoys innovating with what is available. He has responsibility for picking and managing the fruit harvest ready for markets. He is also a keen photographer. I liked this photo of Beurre Bosc pears he took this morning, they are such a beautiful pear and it is a lovely view from inside the net. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We have Williams pears picked already, ripening off the tree. Beurre Bosc are being picked now, and Packham soon. Pears are so sweet and are totally delicious dried.

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We dry fruit in our old solar dryer.  This was made by John and Sharon Batt of Ruffy probably in the ’80’s as a mail order home business, I think when they were home schooling their children. It is a good design, and the time might be ripe for someone to start making them again. [The legs on bricks in water are to create moats to keep ants out of the sweet fruit.]

On the Farm

With good helpers, a lot is possible. As well as the busy summer fruit harvest and management, and with renewing the whitewash over the whole outside of the house, this week we replaced the rainwater header tank that sits 4.5m off the ground on the lower level of the water tower.  A minor engineering feat getting the old one safely down and the new one up these ramps, with ropes and many hands making everything safe.

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8m long Ramps set up, ready to bring the old leaky tank down.

The problem was having a zincalume roof feeding (eventually) into a plain galvanised header tank. The ions work against the galvanising, and the tank does not last. The new tank is aquaplate, so polymer coated steel on the dark inside of the tank, and galvanised steel on the outside to cope with the sun and rain.

Backyard Bees 22nd March 2015

It is now more than 9 years since I came upon this our first bee swarm, when mowing in the young olive grove in November 2005. Luckily my neighbor Jeff Welsh had offered that if I found a swarm, he would help me to ‘put it in a box’.

collecting the first bees, Nov 05

 

It has been a learning journey since then of course, learning to keep bees. This year, with help from three strong hives sitting by the edge of the orchard, helping to pollinate, has been the best setting of fruit we have ever had. ​We took 40kg of honey already, and there is lots more out there in the tall stacks.

And they are great source of interest, watching the activity of the bees through the season, seeing which plants are flowering and giving a strong honey flow that year.

There is so much to learn about bees and beekeeping, and I am of course still learning!  This workshop will be the first I have run in this format, focused on getting started in backyard beekeeping, where the bees mostly live at one home base to find their forage from whatever is around.
Backyard Bees

Hands-on workshop

Getting started or getting better with bees

The principles and practice of (mostly stationary) bee keeping, including location, forage, life cycle, seasonal management, and equipment.

Sun 22nd March 2015

Murrnong Farm, Violet Town

10am – 4pm

$45

Bring some lunch to share

Tea, cool drinks and fruit provided

with David Arnold

Book to secure your place

arnold.vt@gmail.com

03 5798 1679