2015 PDC, new film release, the agony and ecstasy of pistachio production, river reveg in top gear, vineyard expansion, the sex life of sweetcorn and lots lots lots more...
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Food Forest

Food Forest News: December 2014

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 this newsletter you may well be subscribed… but if not, subscribe via our website.
Permaculture Design Certificate

Permaculture Design Certificate

Permaculture founder, educator and designer David Holmgren will teach the principles and share some wonderful case studies in next year's international design course at The Food Forest. With the possibility of tangible policy change by major World powers to address global warming, we all need to know what can be done to redesign our settlements and our culture.

This 10-day intensive course will enable you to bring the principles of sustainability into your home and business. The unique structure of the course enables participants to undertake a major permaculture design project using the skills and resources of our tutors, fellow course participants and the Food Forest resource library. Dates April 22-26, May 8-10 & 23-24, 2015.

Click here for details and to book a place while earlybird rates apply; the course is filling steadily.

New film release

We've produced a new version of 'Repairing Our Rivers', an hour long documentary about the restoration of the Gawler River and the reconnection of the river with the community.

The new version Includes new footage of some of the amazing machinery and techniques that make river repair possible. It is an inspiring and educational movie and is available through our online shop - what a great Christmas present!

Net your trees

'Oh we share our crop with the birds' is a common saying used by people who have not made the time to net their fruit trees.

Relative to the value of a good fruit crop, netting costs very little; you have the value back in the first few kgs of fruit. Lash out and buy some 32mm rural grade polypipe and some Y12 reinforcing rod (for stakes) to make a temporary hoop frame over your tree and get a generous sized piece of hex-net to go over it. And enjoy your crop!

The agony and ecstasy of pistachio production

As we got toward the end of winter, advice came from the research group of the Pistachio Growers Association letting us know that we had no prospect of reasonable natural fruit set due to a lack of chill hours (likely caused by global warming).

We decided to spray the trees with 'winter oil' to control scale insects, with the bonus of enhancing the miserable chill that we'd accumulated, and devised a vertical spray boom to ensure that the tops of even our largest trees would be covered. Our gamble that spring would deliver more chill and the oil would do its job paid off and we have a reasonable potential crop heading for harvest in March. 

Shelling machinery pays for itself

We use our beautifully made, village-scale pistachio cracking machinery from Sicily regularly to free kernels from non-split and discoloured nuts, providing us with unique SA products - pistachio kernels and kernel pieces, which mainly go to Adelaide chefs and food artisans. Recently the shelling system got a big work-out when some growers brought more than half a tonne of nuts from NSW for processing. They were delighted with the resultant products, turning virtually worthless non-split nuts into whole kernels and chunky pieces.

You can find out more about our search for small-scale pistachio-processing equipment on the DVD 'Pistachio harvesting & processing - 'Small is Beautiful'.

River repair in top gear

Community group Gawler River Riparian Restoration (GRRR) has been extremely active despite the gluggy start to last planting season and the early dry finish. With the south bank of the project area now pretty much revegetated, the north bank has seen massive removal of pest plants. Use of strategic drip irrigation has enabled significant planting to continue into summer.

Our local Natural Resources Management Board is renewing support for the project (3 years), so so GRRR is now aiming for the restoration of both banks of the river stretching over about a kilometre.

Strawbale wall and shade trellis under construction

Renovation of the 174 year old Food Forest homestead has taken a big step forward with the widening of the drive to take the biggest of school buses and our farm equipment. To protect the home environment from noise and provide an environmentally sympathetic architectural feature, our recent Strawbale Building Workshop featured the construction of a strawbale garden wall. Bales were stacked 'on-edge' as distinct from on the flat, minimising cost and loss of space.

We run 'Building with Strawbales' courses every year. Stay tuned for the 2015 workshop dates.

Green almonds - an old taste sensation

We all know how much parrots love almonds and how efficiently almond trees tear bird nets to pieces... so what about getting in early and picking the almonds when they are really green?! The Persians were eating green almonds a couple of thousand years ago and people of the Middle East are known to alternately chomp on dates and green almonds as sweet and sour treats.

Truly green almonds have a soft, gelatinous kernel similar to that of a grape, with a grassy and herbaceous taste; the whole fruit is edible and the incipient shell and hull give a crunchy 'saladish' component. As they ripen, the kernels swell and firm up into a white nut with delicate herbaceous flavours, only hardening and attaining their brown skin at the end of summer

Green almonds are often salted for snacking (as per the Persian chaqale bâdam) or you can sauté the whole fruits in olive oil, sprinkle with salt and finish with a squeeze of lemon. You can use them in pastas, stews and salads.

The more advanced immature kernels (now) can be extracted from the green hull using a knife (our bolt action nutcracker is actually the best tool for this), then pickled or added to salads, jams, compotes and other desserts or even turned into a beverages like the Greek Soumada. We have nuts available (for a few weeks) at our farmers market stall.

Unusual fruits for Farmers Market

We are already picking early apricots and Cherry plums. Plumarines are on the way and we'll have indigenous Wild Oranges in the next month. AND we've got some lovely young fig trees for sale, so we'll hope to see some of you at the Adelaide Showground Farmers Market on alternate Sunday mornings (9am-1pm).

Our next market date is December 28th and fortnightly from thereon.

Wine sell-out sparks vineyard expansion

Our Mataro has sold out in a flash over the last few years so the vineyard will spread south with an extra planting this summer.

Mataro (from Spain) has shown its credentials as a heat tolerant and extremely versatile grape, making lovely light summer wine (chilled) as well as a full-bodied red, so it will feature strongly in the new planting.

Special offer - $100 per dozen and $50 per half dozen

If you need wine for the festive season we currently have Chardonnay, Shiraz, & Merlot on offer at $100 per dozen and $50 per half dozen (mixed or straight). Pick up from the Adelaide Farmers Market or freight extra. Contact us via email or phone to organise your orders and delivery.

The sex life of sweetcorn

Many gardeners have trouble getting their sweetcorn to produce full cobs; cob size is OK but there are gaps in the kernels. This a fertilisation problem.

Normally the male flower spike at the top of the plant produces hundreds of pollen sacs which burst, spreading thousands of grains of pollen into the air, each one with the potential to land on one of the sticky young green 'silks' that stick out the end of the developing cob. For the next 12 to 24 hours, the pollen grows a tube down the length of the silk to an ovary which swells to become one kernel amongst the hundreds on a cob of corn.

If corn is planted in a block, not just one long row, you more than double the chance of pollen landing on all the silks. If the atmosphere of the garden is moist it extends the life of the pollen. A quick sprinkle of the plants on dry mornings can help a lot. Insects are not involved in pollination though you'll see bees gathering the pollen to boost the protein supplies in their hive. Watch out for pests eating the silks; no silk means no kernel. On extremely hot days, if the plants are actively ready to pollinate, gently running a pole over the top of the corn plants to dislodge pollen while it is still cool early in the morning can help with pollination (see photo at top right).

Tip for a very small garden: to artificially help things along in a small garden patch, you can hold a broad, dry pan under the male spike when pollen is being produced and tap it to release a cloud of pollen, so catching a supply to pinch over the silks of ears on the edges of your planting. It takes about 5 days of intermittent pollination to do the job.

Renovating an old orchard

Three years ago we took over an old orchard on neighbouring land. The first tasks were to repair the dripper system and apply a heavy dressing of compost. Eliminating a row of dead peaches and nectarines meant the orchard could be properly sprayed for fungal diseases.

The apple and pear trees needed a good prune to remove dead wood and we applied white paint on the big pruning cuts and the NW face of the trunk to prevent sunburn. Most of the plums and apricots had died back to wild plum rootstocks, which had shot up everywhere but needed to be pruned back to single stems in the tree rows. These were grafted to Pluots, early Apricots and Plumarines. We have shaped the young trees, taken off any attempted regrowth by the stocks and expect up to 35kg of fruit per tree in their third year.

Crop rotation


Being a certified organic farm, we need to plant crops from different genera on a particular paddock in a rotation that avoids the build-up of pests and diseases.

Our west paddocks moved from wheat to medic pasture and Faba beans this year. The beans (which look like small broad beans) needed to be inoculated with the correct Rhyzobium bacteria to fix Nitrogen from the atmosphere and thus help the plants grow and create the protein for which they are well known. Our sheep will do well cleaning up the stubble and any fallen grain.

Rotations like this should be used in everyone's vegetable garden but you'll probably pick the beans green and follow up with chooks.

Nadja's Garden

If you are looking for permaculture garden advice, take a look at Nadja Osterstock's facebook page. She's a terrific, Adelaide-based designer.

School groups

We've hosted a steady stream of primary and secondary schools with subjects like food security, nutrition and geography in their R-12 curriculum. The junior primaries love collecting eggs, meeting animals and building straw-bale cubbies whilst the older students are ready for a comparison of food production systems or sustainable building design.

If you know a teacher or lecturer who may be interested in a organising a visit, we'd love to hear from them.

Useful Christmas gifts

Did you know that storing nuts in shell keeps them fresh? When it's time to crack them, our online shop stocks a unique range of nut crackers which will quickly handle pecans, macadamias, hazels and the rest.

We also stock the inspiring and educational DVDs: 'Design for Life' - Permaculture and The Food Forest story, 'Repairing our Rivers' - Practical revegetation, restoration and community utilisation’, 'Pistachio harvesting & processing - 'Small is Beautiful' and 'The Making of a Sustainable Farmers' Market' - creating a weekly, community-based market.  

We can also arrange gift vouchers for any of our short courses or products. They can be specific or simply for a dollar value, and can be used for online shop items or for produce at our stall at the Adelaide Showground Farmers Market.
village greens

Young gardeners need help to start intensive sustainable  garden for Eco-village

A group of young intensive vegetable gardeners is raising capital to get their venture happening at Aldinga Arts Eco-village.

Have a look at the inspirational film clip in which Nat Wiseman, Lucy Chan and Ellie Firns explain their vision and how your donation through crowd-funding will help kick it off.

You can also visit their facebook page.
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