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Spring Open Day this Sunday 1st September,
propagating fruit trees, renovating our irrigation systems,
jujubes and the Cosy Cottage open for inspection!

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Food Forest News: August 22nd 2013


Welcome to the Food Forest e-newsletter: it's about self reliance, new design tricks and good things that are happening in our community. If you received the newsletter you may well be subscribed… but if not, subscribe via our website.

Upcoming courses and events at The Food Forest...

Open Day this Sunday!


Put September 1st (Fathers’ Day) in your diary for a trip to the Food Forest Open Day!

If you want answers to questions like ‘How do I grow organic fruit, nuts and vegies?’, ‘Why design a solar-efficient home?’, ‘Can I capture and use rainwater?’, ‘How do I look after chooks?’ and ‘How can I do my bit for the environment?’, you should think about attending the Open Day at The Food Forest this Sunday 1st September.
 
The morning session focuses on sustainable building and there will be an architect, a builder, and an engineer who specialise in strawbale construction to lead visitors around the energy efficient display buildings.
 
In the afternoon, permaculture design will be explained and visitors will learn about drought-hardy orchards, organic gardening, compost making and food self sufficiency. Catching roof water for use in the home and utilising waste water from the house for irrigating the orchard will also be covered.
 
The tours will also view the tremendous work done by the Adelaide and Mt Lofty Ranges Natural Resources Management Board and the community group Gawler River Riparian Restoration (GRRR) in removing boxthorn and prickly pear and re-establishing locally indigenous plants along the river banks.
 
Our full length movie (Design for Life) about Permaculture design and the way The Food Forest has been created, will be showing during the afternoon.
 
The Strawbale Building Information session is from 10am sharp - 1pm (cost $15) and Permaculture talks and inspections from 2pm sharp - 5pm (cost $10).
 
Visitors can also attend for the whole day and bring a picnic lunch (cost $20).
There is no charge for children.
 
Organic produce, wine and specialised types of nut crackers will be for sale as well as fig trees and copies of the acclaimed educational DVD ‘Design for Life’.
The chart above shows chill units accrued March-August (Renmark).
59 units are required by the end of August for normal flowering.


Early spring and climate change


This autumn/winter has been one of the mildest on record in Australia and will not provide enough chill to re-set dormant pistachio trees for a proper flowering. It reminds us of 2006 when the nation’s crop plummeted to 15% of normal yield. We have just sprayed our trees with a 6% suspension of mineral oil, hoping to trick them into thinking the chill has been adequate, but ultimately we’ll need to regraft our trees to a ‘low-chill’ cultivar or abandon pistachios (our major crop).
 
Stone fruit trees are well ahead of normal flowering times at the Food Forest and the rapid warming of the Southern Ocean is a factor in driving the underlying rise in air temperature.

Sheep for balanced grazing

 
Whilst geese are fabulous selective grazers, absolutely hammering any couch or kikuyu coming under the fence from public land, their preference for grasses above broad leafed plants means that various weeds get an armchair ride.

The Food Forest has introduced Wiltipoll hoggets as a trial to see whether their relatively wide dietary preference and manner of grazing will kick the balance of pastures back toward a more balanced mix of grass and broad leafed plants. Heckle and Jeckle arrived from Daniel Aquilina’s organic farm, took one look at the pasture, leaped out of the stock crate and woofed into the thick clover pasture.

Wiltipoll sheep are an easy-care breed with no need for shearing, crutching or jetting as they lose their hairy coat in the paddock as spring arrives. Originally from the Mediterranean (perhaps Sardinia), they arrived in Australia as Wiltshire Horns and had their horns removed by cross breeding. Their energy goes into growing meat rather than wool and horns.

Winter renovations of irrigation systems

 
While things are wet and the ground is soft, we are upgrading the Food Forest’s key irrigation main, simultaneously running electrical cables to activate solenoid valves (electric taps) which are commanded by a central water controller.

Combined with a system which regulates pump speed to maintain the desired water pressure, the control system saves water and power.

Propagating your own trees

 

Each year some of our prunings are used to create new fruit trees. Figs and grapes are the easiest… we simply cut prunings into 25cm lengths, dip the bottom end into willow water (or you can use striking hormone) and place into a bed or box of course sand. Keep just moist until leaves emerge and after a few weeks transplant into a container of potting mix. Fig trees and grapevines will be on sale during our Open Day.
More propagation details here...

Where’s Goosey Lucy?

 
Spring fever has gripped the goose flock, and all the females seem to disappear in August, quietly and secretively building their nests, lining them with down and laying up to 10 eggs. Any minute we’ll see the first of the new season’s goslings… and in 4 months most will join Adelaide families for Christmas dinner!

Jujube, Chinese date? What’s that?

 
The Chinese date (Ziziphus jujube) could be called ‘the Footy Fruit’ (before the Kiwis call it something else!) as it looks like a tiny, shiny, nut brown Sherrin football. It has all the hallmarks of an important species for Australian horticulture being salt and frost tolerant and enjoying hot weather.

We were lucky enough to have a visit from the crew from Tee’s Jujube Farm from Beverley in WA as they headed to NSW to undertake the grafting and pruning of a large new orchard. Greg Tee introduced us to a mechanical chip-budding tool to efficiently graft buds of select varieties onto the rootstock trees he grows. It was easy, and the little trees are resting in moist sawdust for planting during the next week.

Read more about jujubes here...

Cosy Cottage open for inspection

 
The challenge of building a little retreat; affordable, cosy, comfortable, energy efficient and beautiful, has tantalised us for years. We decided to test the possibilities by building a 4.5 x 3 metre cabin, using straw-bales on-edge, weather-proofed with cement plaster. Featuring big second hand windows to the north to capture winter sun, eaves to keep out the summer sun and a floor of thick cement pavers for thermal mass, the studio a has been a big hit and has proven that straw-bale building can be done by everyone.
 
The cosy little cabin will be one of the 15 straw-bale structures on show and explained in the first half of open day.

Read more about the building of the cosy cottage here...
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