Berry go round

A few years ago I give some raspberry plants to a friend to help set up their berry patch.  The raspberries (an old Autumn fruiting variety given to me by a friend from Daylesford) thrived and exploded from her patch, so Nico and I went on an expedition to dig up and rehome the escapees.

Once we’d dug them up, we popped them into a bucket half full of water, so the roots were kept moist.

An hour of work and the citrus trees had their spot to themselves and the raspberries were ready for replanting at home.

No, I didn’t deliberately blur Nico’s face to protect his identity – just splashed some water drops on the camera when watering the raspberries!


There is a small dam immediately above the house/studio area which looks lovely when it is full of water and the sun is shimmering off the surface.  It was built before I purchased the property and has one major design flaw – no overflow!  For 18 years, that was no problem, but in 2015 we had a very wet Winter and water just flowed over the front wall of the dam.  Not good.

To resolve this issue AND create a more useful dam, I’m having the dam cleaned out and the front wall rebuilt a metre higher.  We’ll take a spillway out the back and have it overflow into the wild garden where it will water the artichokes.

Step One – empty the dam of water

I borrowed a sump pump from my most excellent friend Richard and got it cranking.  Most of the water was sent out onto the driveway and then gravity took it to the duck pond dam below the house and vegetable garden.

The pre-existing trench beside the driveway had no hope of dealing with the amount the sump pump was generating, so I had to dig it out… about a spade width wide and deep seemed to do the trick.

Here’s the duck pond dam – full to overflowing.  This is our summer vegetable garden water, so it’s great to have it full.

A few days later and the top dam is nearly empty…  plus we found those three big pots that disappeared on a windy night.  With the duck pond full, water is now being pumped to behind the wild garden.

Then we had a big thunderstorm and water flowed into the dam – no problems, that’s what we want, right?  Pump went on again and I think we’re pretty close to done.

Keep an eye out for the dam reworking in a couple of weeks.  We have to let that lovely clay dry out before we get Joe in to work his magic.  Earthworks – all permies love ’em, right?

Berry tunnel refresh

Chiara and Nico have done a power of work weeding the berry tunnel, pruning back rampant berries and finding the path that we all suspected was under the debris!

The bed along the right used to contain raspberries but they died and we’ve removed them.  I might replant with raspberries – even if just to test whether the old ones died of phytophera or not.

Brambles and jostaberries are thriving and loaded with fruit.  Brambles continue for nearly 15 metres now and have had massive fruit set thanks to the nearby bee hive.

Jostaberries; translucent while developing, they eventually turn black like black currants.

Rich volcanic soil that was displaced during some building work on my brother’s farm.  It seemed the brotherly thing to help out by going to collect it – yay!  We’ll spread straw across the new beds, plant a few strawberries, herbs, raspberries and other fun stuff… mostly lower than 1.5 m because this is on the Solar side of the tunnel and we don’t want to block the sun from the berries behind.


Obtain a Yield

Part of attuning oneself to the cycles of the seasons is attending to the human cycles, not just the natural ones.  The daily, weekly & annual cycles cycles of human activity sometimes give rise to predictable opportunities to Obtain a Yield.  One of these in Ballarat comes along each year with our agricultural show; it was held last weekend and one of the outcomes of the Show is the production of large amounts of waste straw.

Perfect for the garden as Spring plantings are going in, or for storage for use throughout the year.  New Irish helper Chloe arrived just in time to help load up in the cattle pavilion.

Once home, the ‘clean’ straw is piled up for use during the year and the well soiled, Nitrogen-rich straw is dumped near the compost heaps, or next to patches of ‘hungry’ plants like artichokes.

There’s nothing magical or fancy about it, but it’s one of the annual rituals that I look forward to.  I’ve been ‘harvesting’ straw from the Show for over 25 years.  Thanks to Chloe for the help, and Stu (at the showgrounds) for loading that last trailer load (a broken round bale) with the tractor!

Time for a shower.  🙂

Mushroom logs

I’ve wanted to have a go at mushroom logs for years – since hearing Rowan Reid talk about growing shitake on Shining gum (Euc. nitens).  It’s taken time, but here we are…. putting some Oyster mushroom spore plugs into elm logs.  The elm was part of a tree taken down in a local street a few weeks ago.  We waited at least three weeks for the natural ‘anti fungal’ chemicals in the wood to dissipate – during that time I ordered the plugs which arrived quickly and sat in the fridge until yesterday.

A tray ute with the sides down makes an excellent workstation for many jobs!  Clara is painting the ends of the logs to seal them (so ‘wild’ fungi doesn’t invade the log).  The old electric fry pan tilted on an angle provides a ready supply of melted beeswax to seal over the plugs, once we’ve popped them into the holes drilled in the logs.

Masking tape wrapped around the correct size bit means you only drill to the depth desired.   The plugs are tapped into the holes then covered with a dollop of melted beeswax.

Holes are about 150 mm apart along the log with rows maybe 60 mm apart – but no one was measuring!

The logs will be stacked off the ground in a shady outdoor space.  Oyster mushrooms take 3 months or more to fruit, so we’ll have to be patient.  Luckily, there’s plenty else to keep us busy as Spring cranks up!

Flying buttress growing frame

Pepper’s cubby continues to grow – this time with a gracious flying buttress on the South side, to provide stability against the driving winds from the North, plus a frame for growing grapes and other climbers.  Looking forward to a lovely shady kids play area…

The structure is made from recycling trampoline components – welded together by my brother Andy who is a master at all things metal.  If you look closely, you might be able to work out which bits are from which parts of the trampoline?   🙂

Flying buttresses were originally developed to prevent the side walls of European cathedrals being moving by the weight of the roof; this one will help keep the structure stable as well as making it look cuter.  I put each of the base ends into a solid block of concrete, both of which will be incorporated into a garden bed.

Before we put the buttress on, we had to finish all the windows.

Now that the windows and buttress are done, we can remove the scaffolding.  Heck, we might even think about making the front deck and putting the door on… although everyone has got pretty used to access via the ladder

Sprung exuberance

The sun is shining, the soil has started to warm and the plants are responding…

Native thyme (Prostanthera rotundifolia)  thriving and flowering

French garlic (Rose de Latrec) growing well – sourced from Ross, the garlic man at Ballarat Farmers Market, who recommends it as a great tasting and good keeping variety.

Masses of young leaves in the Loquat (Eriobotrya japonica) hedge


Cold frame fired up

I built this cold frame a year or so ago, but did too good a job – I insulated it, put reflective material inside and had a tight fitting shower screen as a cover…. it cooked everything I put in it!

I considered just calling it a solar oven and using it to heat soup, but we’re having another go at the original purpose, this year.  Clara cleared all the mint & brambleberry away and we’ve put some seedlings inside polystyrene crates in the frame.  To reduce the cooking, we’ll remove the glass during day time.  Fingers crossed, folks!


A beautiful day for planting apples!

Another five apple trees found a happy home this morning…

Akane (spur-bearing Japanese variety bred from Jonathan and Worcester Pearmain)

Calville blanc d’Hiver (old French cooker)

Granny Smith (is there a more famous Aussie out in the wide world?)

Kingston Black (renowned for dry cider making)

Summer Strawberry (rare old aussie variety, probably from South Australia)

They left the farm late morning so by now some of them will already be in the ground – a celebration planting as new owners take possession (today) of 20 acres at Berringa.   As these trees grow in the years to come, they will be a reminder of this beautiful Spring day.  May many happy memories be created on that property from this day forward!  🙂


Apples C – Y

Welcome back!  If you are reading this on FaceBook, you might like to subscribe to my blog via the website, so you don’t miss out on announcements like this in the future.  FB feeds can scroll along pretty quickly some days and it’s easy to miss a post.

Please refer to yesterday’s post for information on rootstock, etc.  Big thanks to the people who’ve ordered and those who have already picked up trees!  Yay!

Audun and I have finished sorting through the apples, putting aside ones to plant at my place and working out which trees can be for sale.

Here are the rest of the available apples…  PLEASE have a read through this and yesterday’s post and have a short list before contacting me… if you want four apples, have a list of six so that if some are sold out you can grab the next on the list.  All of these apples are interesting and useful in their own way; people often stick to dessert apples, but why not deliberately plant a classic cooker like Geeveston Fanny (slices stay firm when cooked) or Golden Noble which does the opposite and turns into a golden fluffy mass.  Some kids have never seen apple that cooks like that… give ’em a treat!


Calville blanc d’Hiver  FT 3      M9 / M26 /MM102

Cooking, France post 1600. Fruit medium size, variable,  yellow, smooth, sweet – acid.  Flesh colour white to creamy pale yellow. Late season harvest. The perfect choice for tarte aux pommes, its spicy aromatic flavor makes it one of the world’s top culinary apples, which keeps shape during cooking.  The ugly exterior of this mis-shapen apple belies a sublime interior.

Cornish Gilliflower  FT 3              M9 / M26 / Ottawa 3

Dessert, late harvest, England (Cornwall_ pre-1813.  Fruit large, green, flushed brown-red, firm, rich aromatic.  Light cropper, tip bearer.  “No other equals it in excellence”.  All classic writers agree about its high quality.

Dayton     FT 3     M26

Modern variety – USA (Illinois), 1976.  Brilliant red fruit is crisp, juicy, sweet-tart, and very flavourful. Flesh is pale yellow, fine grained, and mildly sub-acid.

Doctor Hogg    FT 3                                 M 26 / Ottawa 3

Dual purpose, second early to midseason harvest, England (Sussex) 1880.  Fruit medium-size, golden, pink cheer, tender, juicy, brisk-sweet.  Tree flowers midseason. “First class baking, excellent culinary, also good for dessert”

Edna Walling’s Crab   FT 2               MM102                 (one only)

Famous for being the favourite of Australian 1930’s and 40’s garden designer Edna Walling.  Fruits are a good size for jelly making (35-40 mm round).

Einshemer     FT 1    [E]      M9 /  M26

Syn. Ein Shemer. Dessert, early harvest, Israel, modern.  Fruit medium to large, yellow with some blush, sweet.  Tree flowers very early, diploid.  Said to be resistant to apple scab (black spot).  Another of the modern low chill varieties.  Because of its very early flowering, some authorities suggest Anna or Dorsett Golden for cross-pollination.  Clive Winmill’s observation of flowering periods suggests cultivars from FT1 may be better.  (It is in leaf now, early September)

Egremont Russet  FT 2     MM102

Dessert, midseason harvest (late season according to Orange Pippin website).  England 1872.   The definitive English russet apple, with the charateristic sweet/dry “nutty” flavour.  Spur bearer.  Eaten fresh, cooked or dried.  Main commercial russet in UK, “A delicious fruit especialy suited for garden use”

Fameuse (aka Snow Apple)   FT 3                   M26

Syn. Pomme de Neige, Snow Apple. Dessert, mid to late harvest, probably Canada, pre-1730.  Fruit small, red, crisp, very white-fleshed, mild flavour, slight perfume.  Tree vigorous, good cropper, flowers midseason.  “A very celebrated fruit”.  A noted favourite – particularly of children, probably on account of its mild flavour and handy size.  There appears to be a cultivar called “Lady in the Snow” which is sometimes thought to be the same as Fameuse – both are popularly called Snows.  However, it seems more probably that they’re two distinct cultivars.  The flesh of Fameuse is typically pure white, whereas that of Lady in the Snow has a pink tinge.  Winmill states that  Lady in the Snow is a name of no horticulturally standing.  Fameuse produces seedlings fairly close to the parental type, so the mysterious Lady may be one of those.

Geeveston Fanny    FT 2                       M 26 / Ottawa 3

Dual purpose, midseason harvest, Tasmania, pre-1880.  Fruit small-medium, prettily flushed/striped, crisp, sweet, aromatic.  Tree vigorous, upright, heavy cropper, best thinned.  Flowers early to midseason.  “In cooking, slices retain their shape”.  One of the Winmill favourites and one of the prettiest.  Distinct from the USA cv. Fanny but possibly a seedling from it.

Gladstone FT 4      MM102

An old English summer apple, dating back to the 1780s, but re-introduced in 1868 by Mr Jackson of Blakedown Nursery as Jackson’s Seedling. Renamed Gladstone in 1883.  (Orange Pippin website)  Not named after the Prime Minister!  Red fruit, early season harvest.  Partial tip bearer.

Gloster 69    FT 3                M26 / Ottawa 3

This is a vigorous tree and a prolific and reliable cropper. It produces large dark red apples that are sweet and crisp and can be used as eaters or cookers. It can be a useful tree to grow as a pollinator for other apple trees. Raised at a research station in Germany (Jork, Hamburg, 1950’s), it became a popular commercial variety and is widely grown across northern Europe.

Golden Delicious  FT 3               M9

Dessert, mid to late harvest, USA, released 1914.  Fruit medium size, yellow, crisp, sweet.  Despite name, not related to the Delicious family of apples.  One of the most widely grown apples.  You’ve eaten it, you know it.  🙂

Golden Noble  FT 4              Ottawa 3 / MM 102

Cooker, early to mid season. England (Norfolk) 1820.  Tree vigorous, moderate cropper, partial tip bearer.  In cooking, retains lemony flavour, cooks fluffy, pale golden.  Very ripe specimens can be eaten by those who like a tangy fruit.

Gravenstein    Triploid – FT 2                    M26

Dual purpose, early to second-early harvest, possibly Schleswig-Holstein, possibly Italy, pre-1667.  Fruit large, flushed and streaked, crisp, aromatic, cooks fluffily.  Tree vigorous, spreading, partial tip-bearer, flowers early to midseason, triploid.  “Very valuable apple of the first quality”  OrangePippin website states it as a Danish apple.

Hoover  FT          FT unknown            Ottawa 3 / MM102

Dessert, USA (Sth Carolina pre 1850) Large, slightly conical apples.  Skin almost completely covered with dark-red (which can be a lighter red at lower altitudes) with some russetting and light dots.  Inside, they have firm, tender, juicy flesh with a good, brisk taste with mild tartness.  Very late so good keeper.  (This variety not included in Winmill’s ‘definite’ list.  Flowering time hence unknown but likely to be mid/late as US records describe it as coming into leaf much later than other Southern apples)

Isaac Newton’s Tree  FT 5                M26

Cooker, late harvest, England (Lincs) c.1660.  Fruit large, lumpy, green, some flush, soft subacid.  Tree moderately vigorous, spreading, mostly tip bearing, flowers late.  The well-known piece of folklore has it that Newton’s Law of Gravity was inspired by an apple falling from the tree in his garden.  The tree was propagated before it died, resulting in this cultivar of special historical interest.  Its original name, if it had one, is unknown.

Jonathan  FT 3         M9 / M26

Dual purpose, mid to late harvest, USA pre-1826.  Fruit medium size, flushed, firm, subacid.  Tree medium-sized, slender, spreading almost drooping, regular cropper, flowers midseason, diploid.  Still a favourite for many, mostly as a dessert apple.

Kidd’s Orange Red  FT 3                       M9 / M26 / MM102

Dessert, mid to very late harvest, New Zealand, 1924.  Bred from Cox’s Orange Pippin x Golden Delicious.  Fruit medium size, red, russet patches, firm, crisp, juicy, sweet.  Tree moderately vigorous, spreading, productive, flowers midseason, diploid.  “well worth a place in the garden… rich aromatic flavour”  Because of genetic closeness, not good in cross-pollination combinations with either of its parents.

Kingston Black   (aka Black Taunton)   FT 3             M26

Traditional English (Somerset, pre 1884) cider apples, especially suited for making dry cider.  Fruit small & red.

King David  FT 3                   M26 / Ottawa 3

Dessert, mid to late harvest, USA (Ark), 1893, released 1902.  Fruit medium size, red, firm, subacid.  Tree flowers midseason. Possible Jonathan/Winesap parentage

King of Tompkins County  Triploid – FT 3     [E]   MM102

USA, New Jersey, early 1800’s.  Fruit large, dual purpose late season bearer.  Aromatic flavour when eaten as a dessert apple, also used for cooking and drying.  Keeps very well, as do most late bearing varieties.  Spur bearing so could be espaliered.  (worth buying for the name!)

Laxton’s Superb  FT 4      Ottawa 3

Dessert, late harvest, England (Beds) 1897. Fruit medium, dull flushed, crisp, sweet.  Tree vigorous, upright, spreading, biennial bearing, flowers mid to late.  “Crisp and melting, of good flavour”.  Royal Horticultural Society Award of Merit, 1919.

Lodi    FT 3                         M26 / Ottawa 3

Cooker, early USA (New York) introduced 1924. Fruit medium to large, pale yellow, occasional brownish-yellow flush, flesh subacid.  Tree vigorous, spreading, partial tip-bearer, flowers midseason.  A seedling of White Transparent, selected by New York Agricultural Experiment Station.  Bruises less easily than its parent.

Maiden’s Blush   FT 3            M26 /Ottawa 3

Cooker, second-early harvest.  Long circulated in Australia under this name, but appears to be neither the English Maiden’s Blush nor the Irish Maiden’s Blush not the Maiden Blush of USA.  However, a good cooker, said by some to be better than even Bramley’s Seedling.  Fruit medium size, usually flushed, crisp, tender, acid.  Tree regular bearer, flowers midseason.  Pale yellow skin with red blush.

Mother    FT 4           M9 / M26

Syn.  American Mother. Dessert, second-early to early midseason harvest, USA 1844. Fruit medium size, flushed and striped, crisp, aromatic.  Tree upright, moderately vigorous, round-headed, flowers mid to late season, diploid.  “A very choice dessert fruit”

Mutsu (aka Crispin)  Triploid – FT 3                M26

Dual purpose, late harvest, Japan, c. 1949.  Bred from Golden Delicious x Indo.  Fruit large, golden, slight flush, firm, subacid to sweet, cooks pale yellow with pieces staying whole.  Tree vigorous, spreading, spurs freely, heavy cropper if given cross-pollination, flowers midseason, triploid.  “Refreshing”.  Introduced to Australia in 1980/90’s and much touted (then) on account of its size – as if no large apples had ever existed before.  Because of genetic closeness, not good in cross-pollination combinations with either of its parents.

Newton Pippin         FT 3      M102

Newtown, Long Island, mid 18th Century.  Also known as Albermarle Pippin. Made famous by Thomas Jefferson, who grew them in his orchard at Monticello. One of the first US apple exports to the UK.  Quite self-fertile and adaptable, – used for dessert, cooking, juicing, drying and making hard/dry cider.  Can tend toward biennial bearing.

Northern Spy       FT 5                 M26 / Ottawa 3

Syn. Spy.  Dual purpose, very late harvest, USA c. 1800.  Fruit medium size, flushed, tender, sweet, fragrant, good keeper.  Tree vigorous, upright, compact, flowers late, diploid.  “Most delicious, fragrant and sprightly” Makes good pies

Pine Golden Pippin   FT 5     M26 / MM102

Dessert, mid to late harvest, UK pre-1861.  Fruit small medium, fully russeted, tender, pineapple flavour.  Tree flowers late. “One of the best”

Spartan FT 3     [E]      M9 / MM102

Dessert, mid to late harvest, Canada, 1926.  Fruit medium-large, dark red, firm, crisp, juicy, sweet.  Tree upright-spreading, moderately vigorous, flowers midseason, diploid.  “Very good eating qualities”

Stayman’s Winesap      FT 3   [E]         M9 / M26 / MM102

Syn. Winesap (by error).  Dessert, late harvest, USA (Kansas) raised 1895.  Fruit medium-large, flushed and striped, firm, aromatic subacid, good keeper.  Tree moderately vigorous, spreading, flowers midseason, triploid.  “The best variety of the Winesap class for general cultivation”. The class includes several sports and seedlings derived from the old USA cultivar Winesap.  Stayman’s Winesap is one of the seedling offspring.  When its distinguishing term “Stayman’s” is dropped during name-shortening (a common practice), the name becomes plain Winesap, leading to confusion with its parent.  Stayman’s Winesap has added to the Winesap group by producing more highly coloured sports.  Scarlet Staymared is a popular one which originated in the USA (Washington) in 1936.

Sturmer Pippin  FT 3     M26 / Ottawa 3

Dessert, late harvest, England (Suffolk or Essex) c. 1830. Fruit medium size, flushed, russeted, crisp, rich, briskly sweet, good keeper.  Tree slender, good cropper, flowers midseason, diploid.  “Indispensable for late use… exceedingly desirable”. Pick as late as possible to develop full flavour.  Red sports exist.

Summer Strawberry FT 4      MM102

Dessert, second early harvest.  Probably Australia (SA), probably late 1800’s.  Fruit small-medium, striped, crisp when fresh, sweet.  Tree moderately vigorous, spreading, needs good soils, flowers mid to late.  Other ‘Summer Strawberry’ apples exist, and this may be an early 19th Century one from Scotland or the north of England, but the Australian background seems most likely.  Red sports exist, the best of which is probably Mould’s Red Summer Strawberry

Twenty Ounce  FT 3        M9 / M26 / Ottawa 3 / MM102

Dual purpose, mid to late harvest, USA (Connecticut) c. 1844.  Fruit large, yellow, streaked and splashed red, tender, subacid, good dryer.  Tree moderately vigorous, dense spreading, good cropper, flowers midseason.  “Very large and showy… highly esteemed… reliable”.  Better for cooking and exhibition than for dessert.  Not to be confused with Twenty Ounce Pippin, another North American cultivar.  A similar cultivator is Opalescent

Veitch’s Scarlett  FT 4             MM102  [This is a CRAB apple]

Uk C. 1904.  Flowers about 35 mm across, pink in bud but white when open.  Fruit large (45 mm) scarlet, oval, so good for cooking and jelly making

White Winter Pearmain   Triploid – FT 2      MM102

Dual purpose. Late harvest, keeps for 2-3 months.  Online information about this apple is contradictory (e.g. dating from 1200 or 1800’s? triploid or self-fertile? keeping time?), so it might be good to have a few local plantings to see how it goes here!  Salt Springs claim it as a US apple, from mid-19th Century.   Several websites state that it was very popular, so maybe it was very tasty?   I’ve only got one for sale – who wants it?  🙂

Yates   FT  3    M9 / M26

Very late and a great keeper.    Dessert, very late harvest.  USA c 1813.  Fruit small, red, firm, sweet.  Tree vigourous, upright, great & regular bearer.  “First class”  Still a favourite in some parts of Australia.  Fruit can remain on tree after leaf fall.  Rarely misses a year.

See that sunshine in the background? 

A taste of things to come, friends!