Tuesday, November 27, 2012


27 October, Springwood Public School 
by Anne Elliott

It was  most satisfying for Slow Food Blue Mountains and the BM Fruit and Nut Tree Network to be involved with this Festival.  Hard to imagine that a very hardworking P & C of 5 people organised this event! So many hands-on activities  covering worm farming, no dig gardening (with guest "verge garden king "and tv presenter Costa Georgiadis, making a special guest appearance)  - to raising backyard chickens. 

The whole school was taken over with activities, with scarecrows as direction points.  There was even an 'eat street' and numerous stalls featuring handmade and locally-made. The scarecrow competition had some exciting entries, and the waste to art was also popular. Our stall consisted of information on Slow Food,  and the BM Fruit and Nut Tree Network as well as the first of our Hands-on  'Cooking From Scatch' activities at local festivals, using local/rescued/bulk food.  We invited Festival participants to make their own muesli from scratch, featuring bulk, organic ingredients from the Blue Mountains Food Coop.  There was also educational material available (and taste-testing!) on healthy sugar-free alternatives such as xylitol, which is available in bulk from the Food Coop. 

It was also heartening to learn just how many people are now 'growing their own' , and have embraced kitchen gardens in all their different formats. A number of people also added their details to our Fruit and Nut Tree Network enewsletter in order to keep in touch with Fruit and Nut Tree activities.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Notes from the Apple Orchards of Mustang

by Brian Coates

Central Asia is the crucible of many stone and pome fruit ecosystems. Most notably quince, pomegranate, apricot and pear. The origin of the apple is uncertain but it is most likely Western China.
We were fortunate this year to go treking in Northern Nepal to a region called Mustang which is famed for its apple orchards. Interestingly no other fruit trees are grown apart from the occasional apricot but Mustang has a lot of apples.

Mustang is a high cold desert with characteristics of high radiation, low precipitation, low soil nutrients and low temperatures. It is cut by the Kali Gandaki river gorge which supplies most of the water and soil nutrient. High desert regions along river valleys allow high hours of sun, soil nutrient, water and chilling hours for setting of fruit.

The apple orchards however are often located on the high ground above the river where the soil is rocky and sandy and water supply is supplied by snow melt from the high mountains.To see apples thriving in sandy rocky ground with high soil drainage,hot summer sun and no mulch or ground cover only to be surrounded by stone walls 2M high made me think how tough they must be. The only protective factor is wind protection. There is also the added advantage of very few birds !!

Apple Trees in Mustang - Manoj Adhikari

In most orchards however, companion vegetables are grown such as beans/peas to provide nitrogen and cabbages to attract and absorb pests. Interestingly there was often a dead apple tree with an underplanting of tomatoes !!! Tomatoes are obviously toxic to apples.

Having said all this, the apple tree is a tough old thing and in my experience it resents being over cared for. So long as soil is very well drained, tree protected from hot strong winds, a steady supply of water via some sort of slow drip irrigation and a good companion planting arrangement should see the apple tree do well in the Blue Mtns. For bird protection grow as a tight hedging arrangement.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Meeting about continuing and expanding our network

We invite you to a meeting on Sunday 25 November, at 10.30 am at Cloudlands, 6 Banksia Park Road in Katoomba, to discuss how to continue and expand the BM Fruit and Nut Tree Network. Since its rejuvenation a few years ago, Anitra has been the key contact point for the network. Earlier this year, while Anitra was overseas, Kat Szuminska filled that role. Although Anitra returned late in July, she plans to move interstate (back to Victoria) in the near future. The role is already too much for one person so we need to work out ways to keep the network operating and to expand it.

This meeting will explore different ways that the network can operate. We're particularly interested in hearing from people who can invest time themselves but good ideas are welcome too. One idea is to have more sub-regional nodes, activities which rotate round the upper mountains, lower mountains and mid mountains. Up till now the network has been upper mountains centric simply because more people there have been prepared to offer time to activities there. We have more community gardens throughout our region now to support such activities and lots of members up and down the mountains so there seems to be a lot of potential to grow.

If you have ideas or can volunteer but can't make this meeting please contact us to discuss your thoughts and offers. Feel free to forward ideas for the agenda now, even though you will be able to add items when we start the meeting on 25 November — to Anitra

Contact Kat if you want to be involved in a bulk buy of fruit trees from Daleys Nursery: download a free catalogue here

The Blue Mountains Food Co-op welcomes supplies of garden grown fruit and nuts, which you can label with a price or chose to give away free. Look out for this kind of produce there too.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

An Introduction to the Fruit and Nut Tree Network

A little while ago, Kat Anitra and Sue were kindly invited by the Springwood Gardening Club to talk about our little network. Anitra put together these slides which you can share with anyone who would like to know a little more about what we do. Thanks Anitra! If your community group is interested in learning more about growing fruit and nut trees in the mountains or would just like to get together, just get in touch. Contact details may be found at the end of this presentation.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Fruit and nut trees and friends

The latest Daley's catalogue is out for your perusal! Download as a PDF here

Flicking through the pages of potential fruit trees for our gardens and properties is truly an exciting experience. The thoughts of sweet smelling fruit trees providing not only fruit but a host of other benefits. Many fruit trees, as well as fruits on the vine are deciduous, growing leaves in summer leading up to Summer Autumn fruiting, then pulling back nutrients and dropping leaves in winter, thus conveniently letting through the winter sun, making them a terrific choice for the hotter northern sides of our homes.

If you're wondering what grows well where and what to plant in your backyard, or you've been growing for a while and want to update your growing experiences, come on down to the Slow Food stand at the Festival on the Green this weekend in Springwood and have a chat with Anitra and perhaps meet some fellow fruit and nut tree growers too.

Festival of the Green Saturday October 27th 2012 10-4pm
With Special Guest Presenter Costa Georgiadis from Gardening Australia!

Sustainable and soil nourishing techniques including composting, worm farming and no dig gardening feature in workshops in this family friendly day out. Great ways to build up the kind of soil you need to give fruit & nut trees as well as other trees and plants in your garden or orchard.  All that nutrition you might pour on from a bottle of fertilizer from the shops could come through organic matter, nature's recycling. Ever wondered how you'd design compost differently for fruit trees over other plants? Find out more with the permies composting demos and discussions. 

Grass is the enemy of many a fruit tree, competing for water soil for starters! With Oasis seedlings for sale (donated, proceeds to the school) you might find a better alternative to plant beneath your trees, companion plants which have a more beneficial relationship with your own fruit trees (and think of not having to mow!) Nasturtiums are said to deter coddling moth and can wind their way around a tree with plenty of light and air. Borage with its long flowering season keeps many a bee and other important pollinating insect happy. Plant scented herbs to deter or confuse pests (and make tea for you! like lemon balm and mint) nitrogen fixing legumes like peas to run up your apple trees, and ground covers play their part as a living mulch, keep water in the soil and provide welcoming microclimates and shelter to call home for beneficial predatory insects. 

Find out more about companion planting and other great seasonal fruit tree growing tips with Anitra representing the Fruit and Nut Tree Network at the Slow Foods Stall. Thanks Anne and Anitra!

For heaps more info about this fab festival see their facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/Festivalofthegreen

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Footlight Festival Saturday 8 September

Our network had a stall at the Footlight Festival at North Katoomba Primary School on Saturday 8 September. It was windy and unpleasant but, considering the weather, the talk we gave about the functions and achievements of our network at 4 pm was well-attended (see photo below). People discussed some problems with citrus and hazelnut tree growing.

Thursday 13 September we will talk about the network to the Springwood Garden Club. We're looking forward to better weather down the mountains!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Essential Rules for Fruit Tree Pruning

Words by Brian Coates

Hi and thanks to all you came to enjoy a great pruning day at the community gardens.

Fruit tree pruning is a balancing act of science and art and in particular using the principles of permaculture. Observing and interacting , obtaining a yield, applying self regulation ,and producing no waste. Winter pruning is in fact inseparable from the all season care of the fruit tree.

Rule 1:  Start from the bottom and work to the top. Consider soil health - lots of mulch, no grass and plenty of comfrey growing around the base. A healthy tree resists pests and disease.
Rule 2 : Crown lift to create light and shape. 
Rule 3 : Walk around the tree as you are pruning, because you see a different view all the time.Rule 4 : The 4 D's  -remove dead, dying, diseased and damaged wood. Look for pests and diseases.
Rule 5 : Remove potentially unproductive branches. 
Rule 6 ; Remember that pruning is a balanced act of science and art . You want to create a yield and in order to do that you need to aim at a self regulating system. 
Rule 7 : Reduce the height of the tree by one third. 
Rule 8 : Pruning does not stop here -you need to observe and interact with the tree throughout the seasons ie from the first cycle as mentioned above to budburst when the friuting wood starts to differentiate, to the appearance of fruit  -thin out to avoid overcrowding,  continually do this to avoid heavy broken branches. The ripening of fruit depends upon just the right amount of tension on the branch--not too much, not too little. 
Rule 9 : Recycle and be creative and artistic with your prunings. Dont let the waste pile up--think of ways you can use each pruning as you prune.

The aim is to have a self regulating system whereby you are reducing overall effort and above all create beauty. The following buddhist analogy gives a good summary .
' As when a sturdy potter plies his wheel and labours long and hard to get it turning well, It later spins without his further work and pots are seen to be produced thereon '
Chandrakirti  c. 7th century. 

It would also be good to look at other ways of growing fruit trees in the mountains. A single tree is a monoculture in itself but traditional methods from northern Europe to the high deserts and valleys of Central Asia use hedging of 2-3 varieties. The apple arbor at the gardens is another example.

Please come to an apple  pruning day on the 15th July 10am-2pm.     

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Postcard from Grenada

Grenada is named after the 'pomegranate', 'granada' en castellano.

Here is a pomegranate tree in the gardens of the famous Alhambra, which I visited yesterday in Granada.

Here is part of the orchard, which grows alongside the vegetables in Alhambra. The whole complex has always been served by water diverted from a river, which you can still drink from water fountains, due to its high quality.

From almost a 1000 years ago, when it was built, the sewerage was treated on site and returned to the river.

Here are some blueberries growing on site.

So much for modern technology, where I am based in Barcelona we are advised not to drink the water due to its low quality (desalinated).

The hazelnut trees are part of a grove in Alhambra.

Walking in atrocious heat later in the afternoon, the beautiful white washed garden and house walls had figs and grapes tumbling over them.

Returning to Madrid today we stopped at Toledo, where there are many shops with marzipan confectionery made by nuns. Marzipan, of course, is made from ground almonds and sugar.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Postcard from Seville

In the last couple of days I have been on the road, in a bus.

We have travelled from Barcelona, via Zaragoza, to Madrid and, from there, to Seville.

The first shot is a scene from a plaza full of trees with the bitter oranges of Seville in Seville.

The next is of Seville orange trees along the streets.

The historic gardens of Seville include grapes and bitter lemons.

The farms on the sides of the highway from Zaragoza to Seville feature many groves of olives for harvesting for use as olives. The olives growing in the dry red Andalusian soil closer to Seville are used for making oil.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Postcard from Barcelona

Here in the densely populated city of Barcelona, with many apartment blocks but people-and-bike friendly streets, some houses still have gardens where fruit and nut trees, as well as herbs and vegetables, have priority.

Lemons and figs are grown at kissing distance. The trees of tart Nepras stand side to side with olives.

Almonds reach in through the windows. And, what would a Mediterranean garden be without grapes?

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Propagation and Pruning

Today we picked the last medlars from a tree in Katoomba's fabulous Blue Mountains Organic Community Gardens. During a wander around the fruit and nut trees we imagine future orchard scenes as we continue to develop this lovely space. Taking full advantage of these bright winter days and our community minded orchards, the fruit and nut tree network is delighted to present two winter workshops for fruit and nut enthusiasts in the coming weeks. First up, on Sunday May 27th, a propagation session in a wonderful Mt Tomah orchard (we are now taking names for a reserve list if you would like to come email Kat), and pruning on Sunday June 24th, a little closer to home for many of us, in North Katoomba. Bookings are essential and places filling up fast: contact Clare Power if you'd like to come.

The pruning workshop will be covering the how when and whys of pruning fruit trees, as well as practical demonstration and hands on opportunities to have a go at various pruning techniques.

Practical demonstration to include:
  • Tool preparation and safety
  • Preparing the ground around the tree
  • Crown lifting
  • Pruning to shape----removing deadwood , watershoots , weak branches.
  • Creating the vase shape or keeping the central leader.
  • Crown reduction.
  •  Identifying common pests , diseases and deficiencies of fruit and nut trees.

2 examples of pruning that we will demonstrate:
  •  individual trees
  •  the apple arbor (close planted)

And a chance to discuss bigger issues:
  • New approaches to growing fruit and nuts in the Blue Mountains
  • Avoiding monocultures in orchard design
  • Multipurpose design ie food production , wind and fire breaks plus artistic and creative aspects esp. in relation to hedges and arbors.
  • Purpose of pruning and when to do it.
Entry by donation.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Preserving Day

by Cressida Hall

Although I grew up in the country I don’t have any childhood memories of my mother bottling fruit, making jam or pickling vegetables.  My family have been universally blessed with black thumbs so we never had a surfeit of produce that needed preserving.  In my friend Petra’s house it was a different matter altogether.  Magda, her mother, was Czech and an inveterate preserver and grower of fruits.  Indeed she’d converted her double suburban Canberra lot into a most prolific orchard where she grew several varieties of plums, along with cherries, nectarines, peaches, apricots, pears, apples and crab apples.  She was a crazy good gardener so there was always a lot of fruit to preserve.  Her stove-top Fowler’s Vacola set was probably her most used kitchen utensil, followed closely by the baking tray on which she made two fruit strudels every second day.  Somehow (perhaps driven by my gluttony) we’d end up at Petra’s house each day after school where we’d eat strudel and hot chips, not together, as our after school snack.  Heaven.

Along with snacks Petra’s house was also my designated go-to place in case of nuclear disaster.  For in her kitchen Magda had a giant, dark cupboard literally groaning under the weight of hundreds of ancient bottles of preserved fruit.  She was also a keen adopter of wild cats so I figured that I’d have protein, fruit and a handy source of fur in case of total world annihilation.  Nuclear Armageddon aside I’d always admired Magda’s prodigious skill at preserving, and how she used these gems to ensure that she always had something delicious to offer visitors, even of the ravening teenage kind.  

And so, nostalgic for someone else’s family, I decided to attend one of the Fruit and Nut Tree Network’s seasonal preserving classes taught by Anne Elliott.  There were five of us in the class – myself, Kat, Suzanne, Marta who’d come all the way from Bathurst and Antonio who was visiting from South Australia.  Marta who must be as talented a gardener as Petra’s mother brought with her home grown figs, lemons, persimmons and medlars while Anne had provided huge bowls of kiwi fruit and pears for preserving.  I’d never seen a medlar before and concerned to get the spelling right was amused to find the following dictionary description of them:
A small tree of the rose family, the fruit of which resembles a crab apple and is not edible until the early stages of decay.
I guess we now know what Marta meant when she called them a ‘particular taste’.


And so the preserving began.  We all peeled and chopped fruit, put rubber seals onto sterilized preserving bottles, and attempted, remarkably unsuccessfully, to arrange the fruit in beautiful patterns in the preserving jars.  Jars filled, syrup poured in, air bubbles removed, lids clipped on and seals checked by the heart-in-mouth method of turning the jar upside down, our first batch of fruit was ready for an hour in the electric vacola set.  And we were ready for some of Anne’s scones, jams and pickles.  Repast over we started furiously on the pears.  

A mere two hours after arriving we’d preserved five bottles of kiwi fruit and six of pears, perhaps not my fruit of choice for a strudel but if you’ve any stone fruits languishing in a cupboard here’s a rough approximation of Magda’s hunger busting strudel.

Strudel Recipe
1. a tray holds two strudels so you should always make two.
2. take filo pastry and brush each layer with a small amount of melted butter, sprinkle every second layer with some sugar and chopped nuts
3. when you think the pasty is thick enough put some preserved fruit along the longest side of the pastry leaving a fruit free section at each end.  Don’t use too much fruit, this is not a fat strudel.
4. roll the fruit up in the filo ensuring that the edge of the pastry is underneath the strudel.  Don’t worry about folding over the short ends leaving them open allows some of the preserved fruit’s juice to escape onto the baking pan where it will caramelise beautifully (this is Magda’s method, not mine!)
5. place on baking tray and sprinkle with sugar.
6. repeat all of above – remember two strudels are better than one
7. bake until done.  If you leave it in the kitchen on the tray over the next two days it will not only disappear but the pastry will ‘wilt’ delightfully


Saturday, April 28, 2012

Postcard from the USA

Lots happening here on the east coast of the USA. It's Spring.

Strawberries are flowering in New York City. See the patch in the community where I've been staying on Staten Island. There are berry plants on trellises behind them. The community has several houses and the fences are pulled down between them. They have chickens, vegetables and herb plots as well as fruit trees.

Here, in rural Virginia where I'm staying right now, you can see lots and lots of strawberry plants in front of the solar panels on the Twin Oaks community farm. This area of gardens is flanked by rows of grapes, not caught in the photo. Each day we enjoy crab apple jelly and apple sauce, pumpkin jam and other delicious preserves made last year.

The top of the Twin Oaks' old barn will be used to dry fruit later in summer. You can just see the empty drying racks leaning through the central door. The community makes hammocks, tofu and other soy products. The community cuts and dries timber and does some carpentry for their own use.
Back in NYC citrus plants have been pulled out from their winter basement protection to sit in the unseasonably warm weather these last couple of months. You'll notice the hot house window being constructed behind.

This morning I spent a few hours touring and weeding at the Living Energy Farm. Alexis showed us around. He loves his fruit and nut plants and has hundreds planted. He runs grafting and other workshops which have proved very popular.

Great to see the activities rolling along in the Blue Mountains!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Delicious Preserving Traditions

This Saturday brings the next highly popular series of preserving workshops hosted by  Blue Mountains Slow Food convivium leader Anne Elliot. Anne’s been an advocate for living locally and enjoying ourselves as we do, in this case by creating a storage fruit that can be eaten all through winter which also looks gorgeous on the shelves. Anne’s passionate about preserving food and a wealth of information and recipes. I asked Anne how long she’d been using Fowler’s Vacola “I have been using this system for around 18 months now, but have fond memories of watching my mother use it to preserve all kinds of surplus , seasonal fruits and vegetables when growing-up in country south-west New South Wales.  My father often visited a lot of the local farms, and the Italian farmers, being always-generous, would give my father boxes of produce.  We had lovely wooden boxes filled with local fruit, for example, stored in our laundry!” 

There are electric and stove top systems with Fowler's.  Anne will be demonstrating use of the electric Fowlers Preserving System, which she loves because “it is so quick and easy for people feeling a bit 'rushed'  - dare I say!”. Bringing these sorts of systems bang up to date is a great way to help a new generation of preservers to get started. These days so much food goes to waste and ends up in landfill. In NSW alone households throw out $2.5 Billion worth of food. Preserving your fruit at home is a great simple way to help prevent so much food going to waste as well as creating sweet treats to be  on hand in your larder or kitchen cupboard to enjoy all year round without having to ship them in from far away.

There are loads of other ways of preserving of course, and different cultures have developed a myriad of preservation techniques for especially loved or nutritionally valued fruits to see them through the winter. These age old traditions including using salt to preserve lemons which the Fruit and Nut Tree Network featured here last year as part of A Kitchen Garden in Every Blue Mountains Home. You can still download full instructions at Slow Food Blue Mountains.  Making relishes and chutneys is another form of preserving, either your harvest or seasonal fruits in the shop when they are in season, in plentiful supply and in therefore in tip top condition for preserving. Anne just recently made another two batches of fantastic "tomato relish, using discarded tomatoes  (doesn't matter if they are a little over-ripe for this.)  This is a GREAT VERY OLD  RECIPE AND SOOOO EASY" she enthuses.
(folks in the lower mountains may consider sharing any remaining tomato bounty with those of us who were less fortunate in the tomato growing season this year - hint! - Kat)

CONNIE'S TOMATO RELISH  (Can always divide this to make smaller quantities)
6kgs tomatoes
1/2 cup salt
2kgs onions
2 kgs sugar
Paste:  4 tablespoons cornflour, 2 tablespoons curry powder, 1 teaspoon pepper, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 teaspoon ginger (mix with some water to form a watery paste)
3/4 bottle vinegar
Soak chopped  tomatoes and onions overnight in salt.  Drain off liquid.  Add vinegar and sugar.  Boil for 1/2 hour.  Take off stove, add paste, simmer until thick.
Bottle while still warm in sterilised jars.

Coming along to the workshop on Saturday? call and book in 0423 109270 or email cloudlands@iinet.com.au - I'll see you there, with my fruit, knife and pinny! 

Monday, April 23, 2012

Fruits of a Food Forest

At the beginning of April, I visited Milkwood's Open Day on their farm out in Mudgee. A glorious whirlwind tour, speed-dating appropriate sustainable technologies including the  now classic rocket stove shower and oh so nearly completed earth bag building with gorgeous natural rendering. A couple of technologies were immediately standout useful for fruit and nut tree growers everywhere. First up a nifty greywater treatment specifically designed for fruit tree establishment.

On this farm work preparing the ground gets started long before before the tree is even planted in giant pits of woodchips, at least a meter square on the intended growing site. Greywater from their ample teaching shed is directed into these pits which over time collect nutrients rich enough to help a young fruit tree get a helping hand later planted in there.  It’s just one example of many small strategies that Nick, Kirsten and their growing team on this farm are making in the day to day practice that ultimately make a big difference to their lives and livelihoods. 

Nestled in a native forest themselves, they’re establishing a food forest filled with fruit trees and bushes along with lots of other herbs and native trees. In this way all the plants and creatures that live in this specially designed ecosystem have particular roles to play to keep it healthy with a minimum amount of work (hurrah) or expensive fertilizers (yay!) and instead all are working to support each other. 

And if you're thinking about planting an orchard sized property you'd save a heap of time using this fabulous seed ball maker to get those supportive species going. Dan Pascall Harris now works with this developing food forest, which contains a surprising number of nitrogen fixing wattles. The seeds are collected from local trees so they're better adapted to the local conditions here than ‘natives’ brought in from outside. Using these and other ideas of food forest design, in a few short years of its existence there is already a feeling of liveability in its interior, a sense that this little food forest has already begun project is own personality, and perhaps that is one outward sign of its resilience.

Tomorrow evening Permaculture Blue Mountains presents Nick Ritar from Milkwood Permaculture. Find out more about more about one farm’s experience of learning to live abundantly and respectfully within a native forest.

Creating Abundance in a Native Forest starts at 7:30 start Lawson Bowling Club.  

The Sustainability Talks are part of a series of talks films and workshops run by volunteers, talks are completely Free for PBM members, $5 for non members.

Milkwood Permaculture run inspirational and practical courses helping to create food forests using permaculture strategies, find them at Milkwoodpermaculture.com.au

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Underneath the spreading chestnut trees

After so many weeks of incessant rain, two clear days in a row has become almost unheard of in the mountains. It's a rare day of sunshine then that welcomes my first outing to an Kookootonga chestnut farm. Being from the UK where few chestnuts are safe from squirrels, mice pigeons, pheasants to name but a few, I'm relishing the idea that these trees have no natural 'predators' here, and hoping to find more than an occasional spiky casing still full of nutty treasure. No squirrels here, but plenty of squirrelling, as we find scores of families, bucket in hand visitors by the coach load. Whether from New Zealand Taiwan and Singapore all are chestnut lovers together scouring the grass beneath the trees in search of perfect nuts. Off we go!

There are nuts everywhere, and its easy to get picky about which ones to take. The chestnuts vary in size considerably and some are split out through the shells, a growth pattern resulting from this year's continuous summer downpours. We're cautious of the split nuts at first but soon think its work the effort of trying them out, after all, no need to score them before cooking. While there are heaps of vehicles outside, its easy to walk a solitary path through these lovely spreading trees and its after about half an hour of foraging that we head back into a more populated area to weigh in. An impressive line of families visiting from Blacktown show us how its done as they sweep through the paddock. "Just get the big ones!" I hear a father call to his children, "quickly". This wiggly little line of people draws back through the trees like a line of foam marking the tide receding from shore, only the smallest nuts left in its wake. 

My efforts today bring in about 3 kilos. Back in the kitchen out come small sharp knives, essential for scoring the back before roasting or boiling, so that they don't explode. There are a few different ways to do this, we score a cross covering 2/3 of the flat surface before roasting for a tasty lunchtime treat.

Fresh Chestnuts must be kept in the fridge and don't last long making them a rare seasonal treat, although there are a few ways to preserve this particular harvest including delicious traditional marron glacĂ©. Kookootonga farm at Mt Irvine has a few varieties of chestnuts which extends the season a little; the 'easy peelers' develop a little later and are still available til around April 21st.

Monday, January 30, 2012


If you know of any unsprayed, accessible and publicly available blackberry bushes to pick from, please let Karine know (karine.gleeson@bigpond.com).

The weather has been unpopular and unreliable in the mountains over the last couple of seasons. After an early hot spell we have languished into cool to humid weather, which seems set be 'summer' this year. This means there isn't sufficient sun and heat to bring on and ripen really good crops in many gardens. Fruit as well as nut trees — especially pome/stone varieties — are more prone to fungus and some diseases, which encourages pests. Storms later in 2011 took lots of leaves off, especially citrus plants. Our lemon trees and cumquat trees were very hungry for organic food and only shot off in December. They are still to fruit.

We are in the throes of setting up the second discussion in our collective sufficiency series. Watch this space (and/or get onto our eBulletin list, see above).

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Collective Sufficiency

The Collective Sufficiency Here and Now discussion held on Saturday 14 January with Ben and Deb, Lucy and Rob, and Celeste offered appraisals of past efforts and ideas for 2012 and beyond.

Reviewing their experiences, Rob said that the following list of key principles for designing of communal management of ecological resources that Nobel Prize winner Elinor Ostrom defined initially in Governing the Commons (1990, Cambridge University Press) were spot on:
  • Clearly defined boundaries (effective exclusion of external un-entitled parties);
  • Rules regarding the appropriation and provision of common resources that are adapted to local conditions;
  • Collective-choice arrangements that allow most resource appropriators to participate in the decision-making process;
  • Effective monitoring by monitors who are part of or accountable to the appropriators;
  • A scale of graduated sanctions for resource appropriators who violate community rules;
  • Mechanisms of conflict resolution that are cheap and of easy access;
  • Self-determination of the community recognized by higher-level authorities;
  • In the case of larger common-pool resources, organization in the form of multiple layers of nested enterprises, with small local common-pool resources at the base level.
Other important principles focus on the particular challenges of the local environment, strong communication skills, trust and reciprocity amongst the managing community.

Other ideas to come out of the session included a call to Occupy the BM tip/s, so that we can have more rational and extensive re-use and recycling processes. We expect to hold another in what might become a short series of discussions on this topic, so watch this space...

Tuesday, January 3, 2012


I find it hard not to concentrate on fruit and nut cooking this time of year. I've tasted some lovely pan fortes over the last month and have decided to experiment with these to work out the ideal recipe for gifts late this year.
Meanwhile, the day before yesterday I made plum jam. It was very simple. I stalked and washed 3kg (about 40) tart plums and put them in a large saucepan with 2 cups of water, brought them to the boil and simmered them until they virtually disintegrated. Making sure the bottom was not sticky I added 3kg brown sugar and stirred well as I brought the mixture to the boil again. At this point the stones tend to surface and you can remove them with a spoon. I boiled the mixture for 15 mins or so until it reached setting point and then bottled it in 12 jars.
It's hard not to get a spot or two on the walls, surrounding surfaces and clothes. On clothes we found soaking in milk did the trick.


We can harvest a wide range of fruits and nuts locally each season.

Local fruit and/or nut gardeners are invited to make additions or suggest modifications to the following work-in-progress compiled by Lizzie Connor.


Across the mountains: loquat, mulberry, rhubarb, strawberry and (in late spring) raspberry

Best in the lower mountains: avocado, jaboticaba, lemonade


Across the mountains: apricot, blueberry, boysenberry, cherry, currant (red, black, white), gooseberry, kumquat, loganberry, loquat, mulberry,nectarine, peach, plum, raspberry, rhubarb, strawberry and (in late summer) almond, apple, fig, hazelnut, passionfruit, pear (incl. nashi), pomegranate, youngberry

Best in lower mountains:lemon (Eureka), lemonade, lime, mandarin, orange, persimmon (non-astringent) and (in late summer) avocado, babaco, macadamia, rockmelon, wampee, watermelon

Best in upper mountains: jostaberry, lemon (Meyer), persimmon (astringent)


Across the mountains: almond, apple, chestnut, feijoa, fig, grape, hazel, kiwi fruit, kumquat, medlar, olive, passionfruit, pear (incl. nashi), plum, quince, raspberry (some), rhubarb, strawberry, strawberry guava, walnut

Best in lower mountains: avocado, babaco, cherimoya, grapefruit, lemon (Eureka), macademia, monstera deliciosa, orange, pine nut, pistachio, rockmelon, tamarillo, walnut, watermelon, white sapote

Best in upper mountains: lemon (Meyer), mandarin (Satsuma)


Across the mountains: apple, hazelnut, kiwi fruit, kumquat, pear (incl. nashi)

Best in lower mountains: grapefruit, lemon (Eureka), orange, tangelo

Best in upper mountains: avocado (Bacon), lemon (Meyer)

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