Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Spring Madness

It's been a while since the last post, busy and exciting times in the lead-up to spring. Last I checked in we'd done some initial work on the new orchard. This has moved along a little bit further, we've got the stays in on two of the posts (major achievement, I know, but we did do some other stuff as well). I'll need to weld a couple more up for the other three posts, then it will be time for some wire.

We spent a great family day out at the block weekend before last, cooked some sausages over the fire and took a leisurely walk down to the creek and then back via the big hill, with a stop-over at the old dump where we scrounged up some interesting bits and pieces.

The seeds for spring also went in that weekend, a variety of things planted up in toilet roll tubes. Only the basil and cucumbers have emerged so far, fingers are crossed for the rest as some of the seed is getting on a bit, highlighting the need to rotate seed more often. The problem faced there is that some types of seed have so much in a pack one could never get through it all before it declines in viability. Might be worth establishing a seed trade network for the spring flush, where half packets of varieties are sent off about the place. A much better approach than planting a tray of four year old seed and losing two weeks waiting for it to fail to germinate.

Last weekend started out rainy and miserable, with patches of sunshine, so after a quick trip out to the block to pick up some firewood we took a trip into town to do some shopping. I'd been working on two old lawnmowers for the last few weeks, trying to get them running reliably, but in the face of wifely displeasure at the ever lengthening lawn and the lack of suitable parts it was decided that a new mower would be the safest course of action. I've had a lot of lawnmowers over the years, but thinking back on it this is only the second one we have ever bought, and the first ever push-mower. The first purchased was the trusty old ride-on we got when we moved out here. Fifteen odd years of patching up and holding together with wishes various old pieces of junk has come to an end and we are now the proud owners of a new mower.

Sunday started out with assembling the new mower and taking it for a quick test run (the lawn was still wet from the rain overnight, and we all know mowing wet grass is bad news). This was followed up with some remedial work demolishing the old septic tank and filling it in, along with the addition of a few bags of lime. Yes, you guessed it, yet another milestone. The Flood Street Farmlet is officially connected to the Cudal Sewer!! No more swampy side paddock in the depths of winter when DW has put one load of washing too many through. No more glorious unsavory smells to chew upon during balmy summer evenings.

Once I was sure I'd survived filling in the tank (the sides of it were foot thick concrete made in the old style, without reo, but virtually indestructible to the tools of a mere mortal. The small sledgehammer is a ruin, swinging the large one almost killed me) it was time to clear out the old tin shed, and repair the door. By mid afternoon I had the truck loaded up with more 'materials' to go out to the block, another pile destined for the tip, and the shed had been updated with a hinged door in place of the sliding one that refused to slide. It's now the home for the bikes so that there is enough room for shiny new mower in the big shed. Amazing what a fellow can achieve when the safety of his new mower is at stake.

The letters to officially surrender our shed DA were sent today. That should eliminate all the fancy roadwork requirements, bringing us back to square one, an intersection and stock grids on the laneway. I'm not sure how we'll tackle those, but we'll find a way. The shed will go up under the exempt development code in a different location. I was lucky enough to talk to a member of the Department of Planning last week, and a member of the Department of Lands just before that, and neither could see any validity in Council's claim that we did not have legal access to the block. Given that, we're willing to try our luck and if Council decides to get stroppy about it we can meet them in court over it. As always, if we knew then what we know now, well...

This weekend, if all goes well, is camping time. It's DS1's birthday and Father's Day and calls for a weekend of celebration. Fingers are firmly crossed for some nice weather so we're allowed to go! Hopefully we can spend Father's Day doing some of the things I love, like preparing shed sites and installing fences!! If we do make it out then it's guaranteed we'll enjoy a quiet evening around the bonfire with a glass of red or three, the perfect cure for the hassals of modern bureaucracy.


Anonymous said...

So what's going in the orchard? Looking to focus on disease-resistant varieties?







Will S.

Geoff said...

Hi Will,

Thanks for those links, I'd seen your mention of heartnuts before, very interesting, and I didn't realise there was a cold-climate pawpaw, but as the page says, our in Oz is a tropical species.

The orchard area is only small, it's the "high-security" ward for household production, and will contain about 60 espaliered/trained fruit trees, grapes and berry crops and so on. They'll mostly be heritage varieties on dwarf stock from a producer here.

I've got another area planned for normal sized trees growing in a food forest type arrangement.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like the plan is well along.

Have you considered any of the Spindle techniques, or do you care that much about yield density?



Geoff said...

Until you posted that link I'd never heard of the spindle techniques :-)

I think they'd be very useful in the high security section, as we want to cover a lot of varieties in there, so those kinds of densities would certainly assist in that.

The only thing that concerns me is the rates they must be applying fertilisers to keep those yields up. Still, with the amount of land we could fit in an acre or two of lucerne and mixed herbs that can be harvested for "fertiliser" just to keep them going.

Gavin said...

Madness indeed Geoff. This weekend it will be my job to find as many old pots and punnets around the place as we can and start planting up the 100s of seedlings. I am going to start more than I need and give some away to people at work and see if I can get some more gardeners started. Nothing like the gift of a tomato seedling to start someone off!


Geoff said...

Hi Gav,

I do a similar thing here, there are a couple of people who don't have the time to start their own seedlings (or the luxury of a glasshouse) so I start up a lot of extras for them as well. It's a great way to make sure they put in some veg each year, and I usually get a pumpkin or three at the end of the season!

I like the toilet roll tubes because they're always easy to find and cheap too ;-) I cut them in half for the seeds that only need a little bit of space such as tomatoes and basil, and leave them full length for the bigger ones like the melons. When planting time comes around they go into the ground tube and all. Might make taking them to work a bit more difficult though.

Anonymous said...

Is Woodbridge your nursery source?

Are you looking at M26 as your primary rootstock?

Surprisingly, little fertilizer is needed in high density plantings after the first few years; "...low nitrogen fertilization is desirable to keep the trees calm with a balance between fruiting and cropping." Here's a couple of links (the first one is the best) that discuss fertilization with high density plantings;



("Fruit size and fruit quality were not affected by different soil management and fertilizer applications.") Surprising...

Of course, we have to balance out high tech yield with what we are training our children to understand for their future. If simpler techniques work best in a future where we might not have access to high tech orchard supplies and fertilizers, then the approach you are taking would likely be the best. Still, if one could acquire highly feathered whips, having a row or two of one of the spindle techniques might be appealing from a yield and horticultural hobby perspective.

What else are you going to grow besides apples? I don't remember if I mentioned what we grow, so bear with me if I'm repeating myself;

Fruit trees:
Apples, Asian pears, Jujube, Plums, Pawpaw, Figs, American and Asian Persimmon, Che, Pomegranate, Medlar (next year)

Nut Trees:
Heartnut, English Walnut, Northern Pecan, Filberts, hybrid Chestnut

Grapes, Blueberries, Raspberries, Elderberries, Gooseberries, Juneberries (Serviceberries), Aronia berries, Lingonberries

Are you going to blog on your varieties?


Anonymous said...

Oh, and not to tie you down to your computer all morning, but do you also have a nut tree plan?


Geoff said...

Hi Will,

We'll source a lot of varieties through Woodbridge, though we've already got quite a few varieties here as well that I'd like to propagate. M26 will be the stock for the high security area, and I'll probably go with seedling stock for the food forest areas. Even though it delays fruiting, it's generally a stronger and more resistant stock.

Interesting paper on the fertiliser. I've been discussing it with DW and we may look into planting our commercial growing using the spindle system. Given there's only 70 acres available, and probably 20 of that is flat enough to accommodate plantings we'd been thinking that we couldn't really do anything commercial with it in terms of orcharding. Reading about those densities changes that thinking! 5 acres would produce a fair amount of fruit with those planting densities!!

One of the big motivators is to have things set up so that they require minimal ongoing inputs of things that cannot be sourced on-farm or locally. If peak oil is the death of the supply chain as we know it then we need to aim to be in the right niche to take advantage of that. Obviously it's all very theoretical at this stage but the hope is that the kids will benefit from the experiment.

You're growing an impressive list of species! Is that intended for commercial production, or self-reliance?

We're growing about 40 varieties of fruit and nut on the current acre, there's a complete plan here http://www.floodstreetfarmlet.net/plan.html with mouse-over labels where you can click on them for varieties. We've got apples, pears, plums, peaches, gages, cherries & quinces in the fruit department, hazelnuts, walnuts and almonds for nuts. Grapes, currants, gooseberries, blueberries, raspberries, boysenberries & elderberries for the berry department (and strawberries of course!).

If everything works out well we should have copies of most of that stuff out at the new place before we leave. I've got most of the berries propagated, some of the plums, but given time and skill constraints we may have to purchase a lot of things like the apples and pears again, and then propagate from there. I'm trying to take cuttings of as many of the scions as possible that can then be budded or grafted when we get rootstock sorted out, they can survive on their own roots as stock plants until then.

We'll be expanding the nuts out at the new place (expanding everything really, given the extra space!) I've started the stone pine grove for pine nuts, and have carobs ready to go in as well, but hazelnuts will be one of the larger crops due to the wide range of uses for it. We're also collecting a range of oaks for acorns, and will grow a fair bit of wattle for it's seed as well. Pecans are on the list, and after reading the docs you supplied I'll see if we can get butternuts and heartnuts out here as well. Oh, and lots of tallow trees for their seed!

Essentially if it can grow in the region/climate we want to get some and grow it! The goal is to create a collection of edible species that can then be spread to other growers as they discover the need to diversify to survive the future. Hopefully they'll see the need...

Anonymous said...

"it's generally a stronger and more resistant stock."

Good choice. The long haul is what we are in for. Though since M.26 is very, very susceptible to fire blight, burrknots, woolly apple aphids, crown rot, and susceptible to collar rot and tomato ring-spot virus, have you considered trying Geneva rootstocks as well, just to keep from losing everything if one of them hits your orchard?




Can I assume some number of your apple trees will be late ripening winter keepers, to be kept in barrels in the root cellar or other cool humid place?


"You're growing an impressive list of species! Is that intended for commercial production, or self-reliance?"

A little bit of both. We will enjoy as much as we want (have already started to), then we'll sell the extra. The kids want an entrepreneurial project, so they'll have a mini-CSA.

Neat online orchard map; what did you use to make it?

Have you harvested black walnuts before? We have them here, but it is torturous to get at the meat through the heavy husk and thick shell. Plus we have walnut anthracnose which greatly reduces yields. And they exude so much juglone that it is hard for many other types of plants to grow anywhere near them.

I'd forgotten to mention kiwi, huckleberry, fig, wintergreen, and tea camelia, though the latter two are more for uplifting the spirit on a cold dark winter's morning.

You plan is well laid out, and you seem to have a question about the fig(s). I have a Hardy Chicago, which is a cold resistant cultivar (plus two other cultivars), and it does well on the south side of my garage. The closer to the building the better, if you have more than gentle winter winds.

If you are looking for more ideas (eventually), the Chinese Watermelon tree ('Che') is another variety that is delicious and unique.




P.S. Have you been introduced to Big Gav at The Oil Drum?

Geoff said...

I think Woodbridge only propagates onto the M26, and they've got one of the best ranges of publicly available trees out here, so Geneva isn't an option at this stage.

The ultimate plan is to get the trees from them and then multiply the scions out on seedling stock so we're protected. If we get one of those problems through we can then replace them with seedling rooted trees from the forest areas and start again. Sort of like a stock nursery to create a stock forest, to recreate the original in the end.

At the FSF we've got a couple from each ripening period, over at the new place we intend to go a bit heavier on the storage end of the season, though earlies for drying during the hot summer will be useful also.

Wish our kids had that kind of entrepreneurial spirit, though I guess they're still young at < 8yo!

The online map was made using fireworks to do the image map then the javascript was all hand-rolled. About time I got some personal use from programming :-)

The walnut trees here are still only young (everything is really, all less than 6 yo) but I've seen them in the botanic garden here. The husk will rot off after a while, though I'm not sure if the nut is any good afterward?

Yeah, not sure what that fig is with the question mark, we think it's a Genoa from the fruit colouring. It was here before we arrived so it's still a bit of a mystery.

Thanks for the new fruit!

I haven't been introduced to Big Gav, though I've "spoken" to him before via mail/comments/etc through his Peak Energy blog.

Anonymous said...

Ok, I'm a bit confused as I haven't been following your blog, just your FB posts. I think you are moving from your current location (Flood street?) to a new place yet to be built? And the new planting plan around the house is;

So the online plan with the mouseovers is the place you are leaving?


Geoff said...

It's a bit confusing for us as well :-)

You are spot on though, the Flood Street Farmlet is the current abode, and the mouseover map covers it.

The map you linked to is preliminary design of the new place, which is a blank canvas except for some minor plantings in out of the way places.

Anonymous said...

"then multiply the scions out on seedling stock "

Ah, so you already have disease resistant semi-dwarfing rootstocks lined up.

There's a Aussie source for Jujubes;

They have no known pests or diseases in North America, are drought resistant, like hot summers, the fruit can be eaten fresh or dehydrated on the tree, and the fruit on a tree ripens at different times, so that you're not inundated.


Geoff said...

The seedling stock will be standard full size stuff rather than dwarfing. That stuff will be going out in the food forest where there's enough space to have full size trees.

If the high-security section (on the dwarfing stock) ever fails due to disease or pests then we'll propagate back into it using full sized trees unless we've obtained stock for a decent dwarf. If the effects of PO have kicked in by then I'm sure I'll have plenty of time on my hands to prune them frequently :-)

Looking at the Jujube, I think I may already have one. Thought it was a raisin tree, but the leaves weren't right. I guess that's what happens when the seed labels aren't kept in good order...