Dangerous Activities

One should neve go to a fruit tree orchard open day after already placing an order for fruit trees. It’s not that you get disappointed that you wish you’d ordered this one over that one. It’s more that you discover you need these new ones as well as the ones you’ve already ordered!

Pear name tag
this pear was a stunning maroon red

After last year not planting any fruit trees (just didn’t happen – lots else did) I was determined to get an order in to Woodbridge Fruit Trees early in the season as they sell out quickly of some varieties. I had my list written ready to go when orders opened and snaffled:

  1. Kentish Cherry
  2. Opalescent Apple
  3. Prune Splendour Plum
  4. De Vrajna Quince
  5. Fullers Quince
  6. Moorpark Apricot (we need a third one don’t we?)
  7. Ziegler Plum
  8. Bonne de Maline Pear
  9. Almond
  10. Sugarloaf Pippin Apple

Okay, that’s ten. I’d remembered 9.


Court of Wick Bonza Apple

Jim Reilly Apple Kidds Orange Red

After the open day we needed:

  1. Court Of Wick Apple
  2. Burwood Apple
  3. Bonza Apple
  4. Jim Reilly Apple
  5. Kidd’s Orange Red Apple
  6. Beurre D’Anjou Pear
  7. Doyenne Du Comice Pear
  8. Belle De Boskoop Apple
  9. Flemish Beauty Pear

Hmm. I’d remembered 7 from the second order. 19 rather than 16 spaces we need.


From the open day we learnt lots about espaliering and training apples and pears in particular. I’ve been reading the articles on the Woodbridge site and getting various books from the library and digging into some books we already had. Robin’s been reading about tensioning wires and posts.

Pears Espaliered Apples in Cordon Opalescent Apple

We’ve been eyeing off the inside of the front fence, the side fence at the bottom of the garden near the blackcurrants, the nature strip over the back fence.

Quinces will go out the back as we figure they are less susceptible to the neighbourhood kids raiding the trees. Peaches and nectarines along the fence near the driveway as they get protection and sun.

2010-11 Tomato Season Roundup

This summer was exceptionally mild and un-tomato-y.

We bought our tomato plants at the sale held by the Friends of the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens on 18/9/2010 which is quite early for Tasmanian tomatoes. They lived in the newly built greenhouse until the first ones were planted out on 22-24 October being Show Day weekend into C4. Others were planted out on 20-21 November into C1 and on the side fence. Wire cages to support the tomatoes were used to simplify tying them up.

Despite being planted out a month apart, Stupice and Victoria fruited within a week or so of each other.

Ones to Repeat

Victoria – 2nd earliest to ripen, table and bottling fruit, nice eating and ideal for grilling, lasted well through the season, still bearing in April.

Tomatoes from the garden

A mixed selection - ready to made into sauce and passata

Stupice – 1st to ripen in greenhouse (and only about 10 days behind the Newcastle competition!), small to medium pointed fruit, lower seed to flesh ratio, lower juice, keeps well off plant, still bearing in April.

Mortgage Lifter – mid to late season, medium/large fruit, beefsteak (but not field) shape, later season.

Hungarian Mobile – needs more staking/ cage training, large plant, mid season fruit.

Don’t bother next year

Azochyka – overly large yellow field tomato, skin marked badly, mild flavour.

Black Russian – perhaps a victim of mild summer but flavour not very tomato-y, very soft almost mealy flesh

Zogola – short season, peach coloured, moderate yield.

To investigate further

A staking cherry tomato to be planted close to path for easy picking

A yellow table tomato

A ‘paste’ tomato


Overall - add more compost (as always), stake wire cages using hardwood stakes, plant into C2 and C3 next year, move side fence planting downhill to avoid disease buildup as I’ve used that spot quite a bit now.


Making Bacon & Mrs Radford

A while ago, when ordering lids for some of the recycled glass jars we sourced,  I saw a link to a recipe for homemade bacon.

Well, bacon is one of our regular purchases at the Farm Gate Market from Ross O’Meara and Matt Evans (known in our house as the Pork Boys). And their bacon is such a world apart from regular bacon that we don’t buy anything else. Same for sausages really.  A week or so later I sat down with the internet and also Matt’s Real Food Companion and did some more serious thinking about bacon – cold vs hot smoking, brine vs dry cure and so on.

But it was a conversation with Mrs Radford from whom we bought over 100 Fowlers Preserving jars that cemented the deal. At over 80, she still made her own bacon. Visiting her was inspirational – a gorgeous garden, plenty of energy and mobility, a sparkle in her eye and well organised under the house where the bottles were stored. When we ran out of boxes for the bottles, she emptied the box of spuds she’d dug from her garden earlier in the day. Hers were also the best cared for preserving bottles we bought too.

The next day we travelled to Margate to collect jars from a freecycler, then over to Nicholls Rivulet to check out an organic beef and pork farm. We bought a range of his meat but sadly no pork belly. We did get some at the local corner store though, a small piece to experiment with this bacon concept.

After cure, before Smoking

After cure, before Smoking

My Mother-in-Law had heard us talking and also bought a piece which got thrust into our hands – “you do something with this”. So we cured one piece just in a salt cure, the other in a brown sugar and salt mix.

14 days of turning and peering into the ziplock bags, and it was time to smoke it. Well, in hindsight, 7 days would have done but the last week of work had to be dealt with.

Before Smoking

Before Smoking

Milly watching proceedings
Smoking in the BBQ

Smoking in the BBQ

We picked up some hickory chips, and made a smoking set-up in our BBQ.


After smoking

After smoking: Top: salt cure bottom: salt sugar cure The pieces started out different sizes too.



Starting to slice

Starting to slice

Sliced bacon

Sliced bacon


Eating – we forgot to take a photo once cooked, but before eaten. When we rang M-I-L to say we were slicing the bacon and did she want to come for lunch she came around so quickly she didn’t take her apron off :-)

With the benefit of hindsight:

  1. Cure for the 7 days recommended per inch of thickness.
  2. Block up more gaps in the BBQ to contain the smoke more.
  3. Make more!!!!!




backup of tally

Last Updated 10th March
Apricots (stewed): 30
Apricots (halves): 24
Apricots (spiced): 8
Pears in lemon: 31
Tomato Chutney: 5 (red) 10 (yellow)
Red Pepper Ketchup: 4
Sauerkraut: 4
Beetroot: 3
Dill Beans: 2
Dill Cucumbers: 3
White Nectarines: 6
Yellow Nectarines: 20
Crushed Tomatos: 15
Rich Tomato Puree: 11
Salsa: 7
Spiced Pear Butter: 7

Brassicas as a breather

With dinner in the slowcooker, I headed outside after work to plant out the brassicas that had waited a little too long in the greenhouse.

Into C6, under the clothesline, and side of driveway went a mix of caulis, purple and green broccoli and red savoy cabbage. I’d prepped the ground and holes the day before adding a scoop of compost where needed, and watering in well before the predicted showers over night. C6 is a dry bed – the fruit trees uphill swallow most of the water.


Harvest: pinkeyes and dutch creams to go with the Greek lamb stew. The chickens were falling over themselves to try and get into the spud circle as there were worms galore. Will clear the straw mulch on the weekend and plant some spinach and rocket to take advantage of the spot before it gets too cool and shaded. This is the circle in between the two orchard apple trees.

Just about ready – the red fuji and red delicious. Massive crop on the red fuji this year.Bountiful pears

Pears – 5 more bottles last night bringing the total to 31, also Zac made the most amazing crumble with brown sugar and almond meal.


Ginger Beer – our first batch bottled and sitting in the sun (optimistic? clouds more likely) on the bench.

Week Ending March 6th

End of Jar Gathering moving into Jar Filling and Storage

Preserving – 10 jars yellow tomato chutney (homegrown yellow toms), 15 jars crushed tomatos, 7 jars salsa – last two from 2x10kgs boxes.


Prepped spots for more brassicas to be planted out – C6. under clothesline and side of driveway.

Gathered a very short sweetcorn harvest – really has been hopeless but we will get one feed out of it. The trees in Mary’s garden are shading C6 more than I thought so if we plant sweetcorn again, it needs to be in C1.2.3 I think.

Weeded some space in C0 but more work to be done – the residual chives need to come out.

We are getting another flush of strawberries, ans still picking up on average 2-3 kilos pears per day from under the tree.

Apples are nearly ready.

scarlet runner beans doing well.

Possibly insane

We have bought about 250 fowlers jars in the last week, we are joking we’ll be OK if some disaster happens, will just have to eat lots of fruit.
Preserving jars

Plans include:

  • concentrated tomato puree
  • more nectarines?
  • apples (in a month or so)
  • pears
  • quinces
  • salsa
  • chutney and relish – lots!

The idea of being able to do lower acidity veg and dishes containing meat such as home made baked beans, pea and ham soup, minestrone, curry sauces, vegie curries etc is intriguing me. I have costed a pressure cooker and it comes in around $180 from Amazon when you add in delivery and a few accessories.

Garden report from weekend Sat 26/Sunday 27 Feb

  • Planted out broccoli (green and purple), caulis, cabbages into c1 and c5.
  • Cleared out parsnips and coriander and scattered their seed far and wide.
  • Weeded C3 and C2 in amongst the carrots. Beetroot growing better in C3 where i gave them more space.
  • Started weeding Centre.
  • Combined compost from two black bins which were about 2 weeks old and needed a remix and rewet.

Preserved over the weekend

  • 3 mayo jars pickled cucumbers (home grown)*
  • 2 mayo jars dilly beans (i mixed up too much vinegar and had a recipe for beans too)*
  • 3 No 31 jars pears in lemon syrup (home grown)*
  • 5 No 27 white nectarines in water (from fences at Petty St)
  • dried plums – best ones so far are from Petty St fence
  • dried apricots from garden.
  • 2x500ml, 2X250ml red pepper ketchup*
  • 4x375ml, 1x250ml tomato and red pepper chutney (recipe)

February preserving

Currently I have about 1.5kgs black cherries in the dehydrator. Yum. Fruit from  FarmGate Market.

All marked with * from “Put ‘em Up” by Sherri Brooks Vinton. I love the way this book is organised – by produce eg all the things to do with pears are together. Having grown up with some of Mum’s fave cookbooks organised in this way it makes sense to me.

thumbnail - Put Em Up book cover

The State Library has been a treasure trove of preserving books, currently on loan I have:

  • Put ‘em up! : a comprehensive home preserving guide for the creative cook : from drying and freezing to canning and pickling, Sherri Brooks Vinton
  • Knack canning, pickling & preserving : tools, techniques & recipes to enjoy fresh food all year round
  • Out of the bottle : easy and delicious recipes for making and using your own preserves, Sally Wise
  • Preserving the Italian way : a collection of old-style casalinga Italian recipes, Pietro Demaio
  • A year in a bottle : how to make your own delicious preserves all year round, Sally Wise

I’ve ordered a copy of the first one, and will borrow the Knack and Sally Wise books again from the library. Lots of the books have a lot of jam recipes – If you cut out bread, then there’s no toast to put it on, so we only need small amounts of jam and jellies.

Jar detail

I’m on the waitlist for  a bunch more books. Will report back when I’ve had time to read and test a few recipes.

Dill Cucumber Spears and Beans

Review of fruit so far this year.

  • The pears have been superb, about 1.5 to 2 kgs coming off the tree per day. I’m really pleased with how we’ve been keeping up with windfalls.
  • Apples are looking promising. There is a bit of codlin moth on the pome fruits which I will start tackling this weekend with cardboard collars. The tree closest the garage is having large fruit and lots of vertical growth up high so that needs a summer prune sooner rather than later. The gala needs a clear out underneath – some suckers coming up under it, and this will make it easier to pick up windfalls and for the chickens to get under it as well and scratch for bugs.
  • Apricots and peaches suffered from the weather – wet and humid led to lots of brown rot. I think we need to thin out the top Moorpark tree branches and also thin out the fruit at about 2/3 fullsize when still green. This will give more air movement around the fruit. It would have been better to have a harvest of 50% quantity and actually get more than about 5 kilos that was useable.
  • Strawberries are having a second flush of fruit, with some in the front garden – they have responded well to having more water from all the rain.

Lots of fruit on the bushes. My cage supports have worked well, needed proper garden stakes to hold the cages vertical once the fruit started to get heavy. they are now restaked.
Best so far:
Large quantity fruit – Victoria planted against side fence. Beefsteak style, lovely and sweet rich flavour.
Stupice was earliest – only about 10 days behind Meyles using the greenhouse, also earliest of outside plantings, but less fruit per plant.
Planning to make some yellow tomato preserves to make the most of the colour.

Runaway Chicken

on Friday morning I realised Smoky the japanese bantam was missing from the portable pen, with their scratching there was a dip on one side she must have snuck out – following the sparrows I guess. Sad to think she’s done a runner, but at least there was not a deflated puff of feathers laying around to be found. I must, I must trim Snowy’s wings (her sister) so that she can’t fly.

Part of the spread
Driveway garden

The rose bush shades this more than I would have thought. Cucumber has done well, more on the way. Rockmelon has two fruit. Pumpkins are growing but not setting fruit and I think the zucchini has done its dash. In winter time we plan to plant some fruit trees here anyhow, so not a major issue. Does reinforce the need for SUN! which we have been rather light on this summer.

Regatta Day Compost

Today we emptied the first batch from our compost tumbler (our Xmas treat to each other). It was made on Dec 27th and has been read to use for about 10 days. So a lot quicker – at the same time we made two piles, one in a black plastic bin, the other in the cardboard box the tumbler came in. All the same ingredients but the tumbler and black bin got more added water. The tumbler obviously got tumbled, whereas the others just sat. The box bin dried out too much but the middle was looking good. The black bin was about 80% done, but some dry patches so needs a bit more processing.
The tumbler compost went on the back of C5 after a quick weed. Also some lined up for the cherry trees in the front yard.
Today: into the tumbler – an oldish pile from the bin near the strawberries to finish it off – it’s had stuff added over time so next as blended as could be best, then the compost from the black bin made in Dec. All mixed together and watered. Be interesting to see how quickly that is ready.
Filled two black bins with a mix of chicken shed litter, grass clippings, rabbit hutch straw and comfrey.

Enough about compost!
Yesterday we finished the major weed on the front yard. Even the gravel path got a going over. Dug a few carrots from c2 and weeded in there as well. Really pleased with size of carrots this year. Beans are doing well, climbing ones are best. Kentucky are just coming into production and think I like those more than purple king and the other runner beans I planted. The wax bush beans just have had too much competition from volunteer potatos.
Mowed and whipper snippered today and everything is looking more orderly. We have apumpkin over the back fence about 20-25cm across, the Turks Turban one from HKG. Waltham Butternut has one hopeful tiny one- about 8cm long at present. A good water should help them along.
PLanted lawn seed in the patch behind the chicken shed near the fence.
Picked zucchinis and small golden nugget pumpkins.
Put cardboard under pumpkin vines beside diveway to make it easier to mow around them.
Time to figure out winter vegies. Broccoli, Cauli and Cabbage seedlings in greenhouse while i figure out a planting plan. Scattered random parsnip seed from the patch I let go to seed so that I got fresh seed.