Falling Nuts

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Unless you live in or have visited a couple of fairly specific areas in Queensland, Australia it is unlikely that you have seen or even heard of a bunya pine.

It is the middle of January which means it is bunya nut season.  It is certainly not the time to have a picnic under one of these trees as the cones can weigh several kilograms.

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The bunya pines are indigenous to where we live on the Blackall Range, however, there are very few original specimens due to land clearing for the dairy industry in the late 1800s.  We have one on the steep slope at the rear of our property so the falling cones roll down the hill to where they are easily accessible.

I had heard several cracks and thumps over the past week so I went looking for them and collected 4 cones today.  The photo above shows the intact cone.

Once they are ripe and fall, the cones quickly split open and the segments containing the nuts separate.

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These 3 cones in the wheelbarrow are in various stages of splitting.  You can see the central core around which the segments are spiralled.  Each segment contains a nut.

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At this stage they still need to be boiled or roasted and then the hard protective shell removed to reveal the edible nut.  There is a fair bit of work involved in getting from the fallen cone to edible nut stage.  I have a bag of nuts for to be roasted or boiled which I will take for one of my work colleagues who is a real fan.  I am not desperate to eat them but feel that I should utilise this free bounty of local produce.  I am planning to prepare the nuts and then grind them and use to make pesto.  In the meantime the crushed nuts can be stored in the freezer.

The bunya festival was and remains an important gathering for the local indigenous people.

In the Garden

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After a break of almost 3 months, I finally made it back to the garden today.  I have really done nothing since before we went to the UK at the beginning of November and since we arrived home in early December my intentions have been thwarted by hot weather, Christmas preparations, another holiday and numerous social events as well as being busy at work.

However, I woke up at 5am today and decided to bite the bullet before the sun became  too intense.  2.5 hours later I came in after having made a start on some weeding in the vegetable garden enclosure.  In all honesty, you could barely see where I had been but I felt better knowing that at least I had made a start.

We went shopping this morning and as well as food we managed to buy more than a dozen plants.  Later this afternoon GMan and I weeded the area in front of the house.  This runs the full length of the house and is planted with numerous hibiscus shrubs and covered with mulch.  Where the hibiscus are well established and close together there was very little weed, however, there are still some substantial gaps and some unwelcome plants had become quite well established.  Of course, the area is almost overrun with cherry tomato plants but I am prepared to accept them as they are food.

The next job was to tackle the raised garden bed containing the sweet potatoes.  When we planted them some months ago we placed a panel of old pool fencing over the bed to keep the scrub turkeys away from it as they just dig up the potatoes and eat them and completely destroy the plants.  We had intended to remove it once the plants became established but that did not happen.  The plants had grown right through the fencing and far, far away…………  It was not easy to remove and in the process we discovered that there was a good crop waiting to be harvested.

Here is our haul.

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I can see sweet potato fries, sweet potato mash, vegetable curry and baked sweet potato in our future.

In a recent post I published a list of some of the projects we intend to tackle this year.  One of them was to create a garden outside the vegie garden.  My intention is to create a mostly native garden with a seat in the midst of it. At the moment it is just grass but that is about to change.  Today we took the first step and bought a selection of plants which will form the basis of this garden.

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This is the result of our garden shopping so I am quite keen to see my planned garden come to fruition.  Not of all the plants we bought will be for that area but we have plans for all of them.

Hopefully, I will have some more photos to share before too long.

We are planning to make an early start again tomorrow as it is really the best option during the summer months here.

A Garden Surprise

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One of the biggest threats to successful gardening in this area are scrub turkeys.  For those readers who are unfamiliar with these pesky birds you can read more about them here.  One of their favourite pastimes is digging up and eating sweet potatoes so I have resorted to placing a large panel of pool fencing over the top of the raised bed in which I am trying to grow the sweet potatoes.

However, some sweet potato runners had obviously escaped from one of the compost heaps and manged to grow in amongst the raspberry canes.  Even better, they had remained undetected by the scrub turkeys.

When GMan was doing some tidying up near the raspberry canes yesterday he noticed some errant foliage and discovered these beauties ready to be harvested.

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2kg of sweet potato that we did not know existed! I think I will need to re-arrange my menu plan and incorporate these into some upcoming meals.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Holiday Learning

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Education comes in all sorts of guises and is not necessarily undertaken in the classroom.

It has been school holidays here for the past two weeks and our granddaughters came to visit for a couple of days.  As always, they enjoy activities which they do not have access to at home.

The citrus trees still had plenty of fruit so they picked 2 buckets full of oranges and then it was time to squeeze them.

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They both had plenty of opportunity to hone their skills and Olivia was also able to cut the oranges.

The weather has been very dry recently and last week was particularly hot so watering the garden was essential.  There is not a lot growing at the moment but plenty of water has ensured that the young bean plants survived the heat.

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It is difficult to think of anything that is more important to learn than nurturing, picking and preparing your own food.  I find it very gratifying to be able to share these skills with the girls and encourage their interest.

 

 

Camera, Internet and Rain

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I am sure you are scratching your head at the title of this post so I will explain what these three things have in common.  There has been precious little of any of them and all are impacting on my ability to post.

The camera is currently being repaired and will be ready next week, I hope.  It had been playing up for a while with the automatic flash getting stuck intermittently.  This was becoming more of a problem so I decided to take it to be repaired because I want it in good working order when we head off overseas in November.  So, I will use existing photos for any blog posts at the moment.

Our internet access (not NBN) is average at best but lately it has been virtually non-existent for hours at a time which culminated in minimal, very slow access for the past couple of days.  It seems to be better at the moment so I am grabbing the opportunity to post.  At least I haven’t had to resort to carrier pigeon!  It is not as though we live in the outback – we are barely 80km (50 miles) from the CBD of the third-largest city in Australia!

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Speaking of things being non-existent – that is the state of our rainfall here at the moment, too.  We live in what is generally regarded as a high rainfall area with reliable rainfall throughout the year, however, thanks to climate change it is becoming much less reliable.  The type of vegetation which grows in area is dependent on regular rainfall so everything is a bit stressed.  I have not planted too much in the vegetable gardens except beans which I am hand-watering.  I am also watering the blueberry bushes as they are loaded with fruit at the moment and I want to make sure that I don’t lose that precious fruit.  The kale just keeps on growing regardless of heat, cold, water or not.  It is very resilient.  I know that it will rain again but in the meantime the lack of rain is impacting on my enthusiasm for the garden.  We depend entirely on tank water but we are in a better position than most as there are only 2 of us, we are generally fairly frugal with our water usage as we know what it is like to have very little and we have twice as much storage as most people in the district.

Thank goodness for a hose!

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Taking it to the Streets

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Blog posts have been pretty thin on the ground over the past couple of months.  There has been plenty going on here which would generally be perfect material for posts, however, I have written about most of it before, and in some instances, several times.

I know that there is no reason not to revisit a topic but I have been grappling with a broader issue and want to discuss that here today.  I am looking for other people’s views and would really appreciate your input.

It is good to be doing what you can within your own home and personal decisions with regard to reducing your carbon footprint but should we be doing more?  To really make a difference it is vital that we work to influence change on a bigger scale.  This can be overwhelming and make you wonder whether it is even worth trying but we need to remember that change does not happen overnight nor is it likely to be easy.

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In the past few weeks we have been busy.  We attended a local screening of ‘Before the Flood’ and associated audience discussion. This is a 2016 documentary on climate change features Leonardo DiCaprio.  Like anything on this topic it left me torn between optimism that we can all make a difference and despair that any action will really be a matter of ‘too little, too late’.  However, my final decision is a renewed enthusiasm to really make a difference as soon as possible.

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On a more local note, I went to an information evening about recycling in the Sunshine Coast Council area which was presented by Barung Landcare with a speaker, Sandie Johnston from Envirocom, an environmental consultancy who provide education and training for Sunshine Coast Council.  Waste minimisation and recycling have been at the forefront of my actions for over 25 years and this was an eye-opening presentation.  Some things have changed with regard to recycling so it is great to have up-to-date information that I know is accurate for our local council area.  I am looking forward to sharing this information in the hope that it can be disseminated more broadly which should lead to a greater compliance with recycling ‘rules’.

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I also attended one of the five consultation evenings regarding the ongoing management of the Maroochy River estuary as preservation of our natural environment is critical and the issue of coastal management is paramount if we are to protect low-lying areas such as Cotton Tree from inundation.  Whilst the issue of replacing the geotextile bag groynes with rocks may only have come to the notice of some people recently, there has been a small but dedicated band of people working to preserve the natural river mouth for at least 40 years.  This is a perfect example of long-term activism.  If you live in the Sunshine Coast Council area or visit the Maroochy River estuary (Cotton Tree) please consider completing the council survey here.

Just like charity, activism begins at home, or at least in your local area so here are a few ideas that have caught my interest.

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I have begun looking into the idea of Boomerang Bags with a view to getting this idea up and running in Maleny.

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A couple of months ago I joined Spare Harvest, an online platform dedicated to sharing garden produce and resources.

I have been active in a couple of different Zero Waste/War on Waste Facebook groups and am pleased to have discovered a local Sunshine Coast group.  These really seem to have gained momentum since the ‘War on Waste’ television program here in Australia.  I am hoping to be able to connect with more local people to see what difference we can make as a group.

I will continue to write about the small things I do each and every day to live more sustainably  but I am looking forward to trying to extend this to more people in the community and I hope to share more of that with you, too.

 

Spring has Sprung

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Even though it is barely the middle of August there is definitely spring (some would say summer) in the air.  Our winter was very mild here and we could be in for a long hot summer so it makes sense to get a head start on the summer growing season before it gets too hot.

I harvested the last 4 purple cabbages and dug over the bed in readiness to plant some beans.

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We have never had quite enough soil to fill these beds to the level I would like so I took the opportunity to add some more material to the bed before I planted the beans.

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This is one of the various mulch/compost piles that are dotted around our property.  GMan uses this one exclusively for grass clippings.  I know that the purists say that you cannot compost just one type of material such as lawn clippings but I can assure you that the underneath of this heap had broken down beautifully into rich compost and was teeming with worms.

We removed the decomposed material from the bottom of the heap and returned the rest to the heap for another day.

Here is the bed topped up and ready to plant.

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Meanwhile, I weeded the carrots which are continuing to grow nicely.  I have harvested some baby ones as I thinned them out.

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The newer blueberry bushes which are now a couple of years old, are finally getting established and showing some real signs of progress.  Some, like this one are covered with flowers and fruit.

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A closer view.

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Finally, a reminder that the garden is not only about growing food.  It is about enjoying our surroundings.  This photo is of the natural sculptural form of the the deciduous white cedar which dominates the back garden.

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What season is it in your garden?  Is it changing?  Have you modified your planting habits or even what you can grow to accommodate changes?