Sunday volunteers 26 May

IMG_2884Another clear warm autumn day in the mountains…

Today we started by repairing some more of the clay oven with an additional render layer on the main oven door space to harden it up for rain and other adverse weather – which has been plentiful the last few weeks.

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While that was being done others moved into weeding and removing blackberry.

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The central vegetable gardens are repopulating well and crops like the salad greens, kale, garlic, broad beans, snow peas and bush peas are progressing well.

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The cut flower garden is recovering from our cleanup from last week.

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And then we moved onto cleaning up and rejuvenating the new beds that had been growing squash over this summer. The soil is starting to develop a nice structure and after a winter crop of legumes will likely be ready to grow some more adventurous and hungry crops in the spring.

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Thanks to all who came to day to help out. :)

I will be taking a break for a while from running the Sunday Sessions. Happy gardening!

Sunday volunteers May 19

IMG_2871It was a bright and sparkling autumn day at the gardens today… you can feel the winter cold starting to creep in to the mountains during the day but there is still some sunshine to be had out in the open – and its warm if you stand still next to a wall… :P

Today the focus was on clearing out and cleaning up the ‘cut flower’ garden which involved removing dead and dying growth from the salvias, tree dahlias etc and a huge amount of rose over growth which was quite a savage thing to interact with. There are lots of interesting plants underneath that have been hidden during the summer like various bulbs and iris and it will hopefully be looking good again in the late winter and spring with flowers blooming.

There was some checking and watering to be done as well in the main central vegetable beds where the seeds and seedlings planted over the last few weeks are finally coming up to speed… ( ie above ground and mulch level)

Then we moved on to the northern swales area with the rounds and planted some hardy Feijoas to replace some of the sadly deceased citrus. It is a pretty harsh environment and we are looking at growing a wider range of fruit trees and bushes in that area as the combination of wind and cold has taken a severe toll on the attempts so far to plant it out. There are lots of options for cold and wind hardy fruit trees we can put in till we get a suitable protected environment built up to attempt to plant citrus out there. It has been an interesting experiment so far but costly in terms of loss of citrus. The local soil in the rounds is starting to look pretty good after just on 18 months of cultivation and preparation with lots of Lucerne and straw etc.

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Thanks to all who came today and see you next week. :)

 

Sunday volunteers May 12

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A warm sunny day was up for our Sunday session this week. It was also ‘Mothers Day’ and we had a few mothers turn up and some obviously away and reclining in comfort (hopefully) at home :)

The focus was on weeding and rehabilitation of the raised metal ‘quick pick’ and ‘school’ gardens located near the carpark. All these beds were checked for soil  structure and we turned sections over and added about 3 bales of Lucerne to improve them. We also removed about 1 cubic metre of weedy buttercup and added a lot of wood mulch to these garden surrounds and edges. The recent very dry weather has been hard on the raised beds but they have still got good worm activity underneath the surface and seem to be building their soil well. They are not especially productive so far, but have been growing some good basic soil building crops such as legumes and potatoes… and what has been growing there has been heavily harvested and well used by locals.

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We re-planted a nice small seed crop of purple congo potatoes ( this pic shows just a few of them). These are dark purple and up to about 20cm long and have a floury texture but keep their dark colour when cooked and are very entertaining to have in a meal. The school garden now has a healthy population of King Edward, Royal Blue and Kipfler potatoes despite quite a lot of them being randomly lifted by locals over late summer. They are coming into the main growing season again now and we have a lot of nice new shoots making their way through to the surface.

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The beans and summer beet greens have been popular and we even have some seed forming on a few small flowering plants of Royal Quinoa (white) that we seeded in there only a few months ago. The raised beds will likely be fully planted out again next week.

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After this we moved on and placed some more lucerne around the main central vegetable beds and then moved a few bales of straw up to the other end of the gardens and checked and briefly discussed what is happening with the swales, rounds and possible future plantings at the northern end.

Always good to see both new volunteers and regulars turn up to help out!

Thanks to all who came for the session. :)

Volunteers Sunday 28 April

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Another brilliant autumn day in the Blue Mountains… Today we just did some relaxed maintenance work around the gardens – moving some more wood chip onto pathways, covering the central garden beds with some lucerne mulch, and reorganising various resource piles etc.

Quite a lot of the seeds we have planted over the last few weeks are starting to push up and it looks like we might get a few good plant growing weeks going into winter.

We also did some more repairs on the Clay oven by covering it with another insulating layer of clay and then a render layer to help harden it off to try and decrease random weather and human damage. Hopefully it will last a bit longer this way. The render was a mix of sand, cement and hydrated lime which will hopefully naturally bond ok with the clay layer underneath and harden off quickly to stop the weather and the especially heavy rain we get sometimes from eating away at the surface. And (yet again I use the word ‘hopefully’) maybe even stop people from hitting it with sticks and other random objects… Now it looks vaguely organic and fungal in form… but will work just the same.

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We will complete the render and sealing of the base sometime  in the next few weeks after we have our open day next Sunday.

Thanks to all who came to help out and especially to Annie for bringing her tasty Buckwheat pancakes. (We couldn’t fire up the oven this Sunday while doing the repairs)

:)

Sunday volunteers April 21

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We were favoured with yet another fine day on Sunday. For this session the activity was all about planting and getting seeds in to the ground while the warm autumn days can still keep our germination happening. After the very cold and wet Saturday beforehand it was a nice change. The weather has been particularly crazy this year and it’s been really hard to predict and plan what will be happening each Sunday. And flu & cold season has recently hit the mountains and a few regulars have been energy ‘challenged’.

Primarily this session we put in more broad beans, a selection of climbing (Telephone) and bush peas, Silver beets and two types of coriander (for seed and a lemon flavoured variety) which grows surprisingly well in the mountains.

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There was also a bit of the usual clean up weeding and checking on things… as you do…

The garlic crop is progressing well and we added a few more varieties to fill gaps using a nice Red Rocambole and a reliable Purple Stripe.

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It took a while to get the clay oven fired up due to the excessive rain the previous day on our wood supply, but eventually after some significant smoke events it got to a point at the end of the session where we could quickly cook a few test Morrocan style pancakes (yeasted and cooked on one side only and rolled) using a yeasted flour and milk mix and then with cinnamon and raw sugar sprinkled on them or topped with strawberry jam syrup/honey. They were a bit uneven in cooking speed etc but as usual the last one was the best. We are still experimenting with various types of flat breads and such that can be cooked quickly and reliably in the oven using either metal trays or as we did this session a cast iron skillet. To get the oven to full temp and cook larger items it needs more time than we have available on these Sundays to get the heat developed – so placing the items direct on top of the coals and ashes works for a quick cook. Quick snacks like small pita style spiced flatbreads and pancake/pikelets seem the most appropriate so far. We still have some repair work to do on the oven interior and exterior where it was damaged but it functions well still as long as we have some dry wood to burn. And we still are experimenting with the details of the cooking methods to get the least amount of charcoal attached to the food… and also with various non gluten containing flours including rice, chickpea etc.

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The International Permaculture open day, which we are participating in, is coming up on Sunday May 5 and we hope to have something tasty on offer to visitors for complimenting lunch.

Thanks to all who came to the session and see you next time :)