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Field Notes (January to June)

In Alphabetical Order:

AQUAPONICS: Craig finished the aquaponics system this year (with assistance from Rosie, Mattias & Ned) – The basic ingredients were 1xIBC tank, lots of scoria, dechlorinated water, fish, pump. The main challenges of the system have been keeping the pump running and keeping the nutrient levels high enough. Early plants suffered from nutrient deficiency. We added lake water (brought by Rosie and Mattias from the Southern Highlands) as well as Yabbies, Silver Perch and Mussels and worm wee. The yabbies seem to have unfortunately eaten most of the fish and at least one yabby. So, we need to rethink the arrangement of animal life in the system too. The nighttime photos below are by Susie Pratt, taken on the night the animals arrived. More on aquaponics to come…

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BANANAS: Sophie’s banana tree has been in the ground for two years and this year we got our first hand of little sugar bananas. They were creamy and totally delicious. IMG_20160514_092259042 IMG_20160514_092332947

 

BARTERING: We swapped a dozen eggs for a kilo of honey with our neighbour.IMG_20160226_080718

BIRDS: There are birds that visit, birds that stay and we have a toddler and dog who like birds. The chickens have been doing pretty well this year. We have 5 and we get 2 eggs a day on average. We also get a range of birds visiting including Fairy Wrens and Eastern Spinebills (pictured below in the pineapple sage), Crows, Magpies, Silver Eyes, Pigeons and Minor Birds.

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CLIMATE CHANGE: A striking heatwave in March lead to the release of very disturbing data about climate change. Read about it here. Susie Pratt took this photo of the graph in March. We looked at the graph while we put the Yabbies and Fish in the aquaponics system. The data was released in the same week the fish arrived in the post. I remember we all made jokes about the graph and laughed.

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COMPOST:  Plastic stickers infest the compost. They don’t break down. A little cardboard sign beside the compost bin responds to laziness, making it easy for us to take plastic stickers off before throwing away fruit and vegetable peel. The process is also an indicator of how much we still rely on the commercial food system. We have two active worm farms and two active compost bins. We don’t need to put any food waste in the council bin.

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FINGER LIMES: Tasty lime flavoured caviar from a tree growing in the backyard (first yield = 2.5 years after planting)

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FROG POND: This is the finished frog pond. We had Eastern Stripey Tadpoles this Autumn. These buckets were to stop the chickens from getting to the pond.

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LEAFY GREENS AND PEAS: One of the goals was to try to produce all our leafy greens. We were going well for a while, but then lost some momentum. Given this is a very part-time venture we don’t do too badly. But it would be ideal to be disciplined enough to constantly have enough leafy greens to eat ourselves. IMG_20160508_082503 IMG_20160506_074629 IMG_20160503_182654

 

PINEAPPLES: We had pineapples growing in small pots outside the house for about 2.5 years. They we just the heads of pineapples we bought at Alfalfa House. They were tiny but tasty. We have repotted the heads of the pineapples and they are looking happy in the seed house. Hopefully it won’t take another 2.5 years to get our next pineapples. We didn’t really pay much attention to them, and the pot was very small (not in full sun during winter). Hopefully more attention will help this time around.

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SEEDLINGS: We have soil blockers and a seedling house now. Seedling growing is going well. We use the seed raising mix suggested by Gundaroo Tillers, but we are still having troubles with the integrity of the really small soil blocks. We were having trouble keeping the blocks moist during the day because we are out and don’t have a self-watering system, but we are trying sponges soaked in water to see if that can keep the moisture for longer. We won’t know for sure until next summer.

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STORMS: 2016 has been a year of extremes, of hot dry spells and deluges. It has been hard to get the water levels right in the garden. It is a constant process of learning to pay more attention to the weather/precipitation. In the first image a storm is brewing but the grass is dead, taken at the end of a long dry spell. The next photos are of flooded gardens and people!

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WATER KEFIR: This was a yummy side project – base recipe from Milkwood – best successes with apple, lime & ginger flavours. Raspberry/apple is pretty good too. I found it difficult to keep up the process largely because of needing de-chlorinated water and not being organised enough to leave it in the sun for the chlorine to evaporate or have enough time for the boiled water to cool down. But, I will pick it up again. The Grains were from Lisa Kelly.IMG_20160123_075438820_HDRIMG_20160123_075448052

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