Sunday, 5 July 2015

Verge Orchard

With our limited space constraints (our block is around 427 square meters) came certain drawbacks in terms of self sustainability. One is the lack of space available for planting fruit trees as they tend to grow large and take up a decent amount of space. I have jam packed our backyard with different varieties of dwarf, semi dwarf, and columnar fruit species, but some women buy shoes, I buy fruit trees. So eventually I ran out of space entirely in our backyard, but still had a beautiful weeping mulberry tree needing a home, and a fig and orange tree needing relocating as I accidentally planted them in possibly the shadiest spots in our back yard and they were less than impressed with my efforts.
So last weekend we were lucky enough to get the Transition Town Guildford Verge Gardening Group together round at ours to help us plant the trees onto our rather large verge that currently just grows useless weeds in winter and is a dry scorched wasteland in summer. Over the course of two hours we managed to dig all three holes, amend the soil and plant all three trees.
Since then they have gotten plenty of rain, and are all looking very happy with their new homes. In future I plan on extending out and adding some more veggie garden space around the fruit trees and mulching the rest of the verge to eliminate the need of mowing and to also increase the space available for us to continue producing out own fruit and veggies. Enjoy of the photos of the process and the lovely end result, prettiest verge on the street now.
Weeping mulberry tree before transplant
Mulberry tree located on the verge
Everyone hard at work planting the trees

Transition Town Guildford Verge Gardening Group very proud of their handy work

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Curing your own olives

I love the fall. Signs of the cooler weather to come abound with the leaves changing colour, the winter vegetable seedlings starting to sprout and the last of the summer crops are eaten.

One of our autumn crops we started processing was the first of our olive harvest. One of the branches from our tree was hanging low over our neighbours driveway, so we pruned this off and harvested the olives. The recipe I use to cure my olives you can find here. I have found it produces excellent results, and is simple to use. We use a 30 litre barrel used in home brew to soak our olives in, and I leave my olives in the salt brine for around six months, changing the brine roughly monthly. I then soak them in fresh water for a week to remove excess salt, and bottle with herbs and spices along with a the new brine solution of salt and vinegar in sterilized jars. The spices I have used in the past include: whole peppercorns, whole garlic cloves (peeled), bay leaves, dried oregano, thyme, chilli flakes, and rosemary. I found this combination of herbs produces a lovely aromatic olive great for all different sorts of cooking or just eaten raw as a starter. I've also played around with adding different flavours to the olives, such as tequilla and lime zest, and an extra hot and spicy jar requested by a friend by adding a few extra tablespoons of dried chilli flakes. (He said they were good and hot!) The point is, use what herbs you like, and feel free to experiment with different flavours. Maybe try an asian inspired brine, using garlic, ginger, chilli, and maybe some karrif lime. The possibilities are endless! I first add the spices to the hot sterilised jars, then pack the jars tightly with the olives, ladle over the new salt and vinegar brine, and cover with olive oil. There should be enough oil on top to completely cover all the olives and keep them from oxidizing. Then I keep them in a cool dark cupboard or the fridge.
Hopefully you'll get inspired and maybe even plant an olive tree in your own back yard and will get to experience the joy of home grown, cured and delicious olives.
Olives curing in barrel

The rest of the olive tree that remains to be picked

Olives turning from green to black

30L barrel full of olives and brining

Monday, 2 March 2015

Recycled Raised Garden Bed

Sadly one of our raised garden beds out the front got eaten by ants so needed to be replaced, so Dave and I decided it was time to build ourselves a replacement bed, one that would last a bit longer than the one on the out! I should mention that the beds that got eaten weren't the ones we built when my folks came down in 2012, but one I bought online that claimed to be 'long lasting and pest resistant'. Yeah right. I have learned my lesson and from now will be making all my raised beds myself! (All the beds that were made by us are looking just fine by the way).
All the materials used for the making of the new bed were either scavenged from under our house from previous owners, and the colourbond steel gotten from a company that sell off cuts or slightly damaged pieces that might otherwise be destined for landfill.
First we had to cut all the scavenged timber down to the lengths we were needing, and then screwed all the pieces into a frame that would become the bottom of the bed.
We used jarrah decking boards from our endless lumbar yard under the house to become the corner bits, which hide the raw edges of the colourbond and also gives the frame extra stability. Dave hard at work staining the jarrah to make them extra pretty and long wearing.
Top and bottom of frame assembled ready for painting and cutting of the colourbond sheeting.
Difference before and after oiling the jarrah decking boards that we used for the top capping.

 Securing the colourbond sheets to the wooden frame.

 Closeup of the jarrah corner pieces that hide the colourbond edges.
 Angle grinding the bit of colourbond that stuck up a little too high over the frame on top.
 Almost finished!
 Where the old garden bed was located, after the old bed was ripped out. Looked a bit grave-like I thought.
 Bed placed and leveled, which took way longer than either of us expected, but being the perfectionists we are, got it pretty good in the end.
 Top jarrah capping finished, and bed completed!
Family selfie. :)