RTBG on Thursday 24 Sept- part 1 of 3

During my first year volunteering in the Food Garden of the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens (RTBG) the pattern was for clear blue skies each Thursday. The Covid 19 interlude has upset the heavens so that the new pattern seems to be one of puffy clean whites floating or being wind-blown across patches of blue.  Still gorgeous but varying. Last Thursday the look upstairs was no different.

As usual, I bussed to the city and then bussed back out again to alight at the bus stop beside the highway edging the sparkling Derwent River, and started walking the westward path towards the lower entrance to RTBG. To my left, the land sloped upward to encircle Tasmania’s Government House; a 19th century sandstone edifice. It was the vegetation covering on those slopes which made me gasp.

A sea of yellow flowers extended out of sight.

While not technically ‘wild flowers’, these were weeds growing wild and dangerously out of control.  Perhaps too far gone, I suspect too many for control. The plant was the South African escapee, Capeweed (yes from Cape Town originally). In earlier blog posts, I had decried the humungus spread of this invasive plant around my suburb; you can read more here and here. Thankfully I have not found one growing in my garden (yet?); perhaps my insistent pull of growths at the cotyledon stage has been the reason for their ongoing invisibility here.

If your garden contains Capeweed, please dig it out (easy to do if the soil is moist) and do not add to the compost if in flower or seeding.

Regrettably this plant provides terrific ground cover (but it’s coverage prevents other plants growing), and it is pretty to look at but prolific.  Don’t be seduced! They are not edible and toxic to many animals.

On I walked. Ahead, tapping around the Capeweed ‘undergrowth’ were a flock of healthy fat Galahs (I was asked later whether I was referring to people – but no, these are our pink and grey distinctive Australian native birds). Bar one, the flock flew away as I approached; must have found seeds to feast on – were they Capeweed seeds?

As I passed large pine trees, the attractive newly forming cones were in full colour.

Finally I was inside the gates of the RTBG and, with each step, I was losing the sound of the highway traffic. Peace descended.  Ahead I could see the mountain (kunanyi/Mt Wellington) had gone on holiday, and was no longer looking down onto the Gardens.

As I walked into the Food Garden, it’s edging of hellebores and blue bells provided a striking welcome.

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Pushing

Lian Tanner’s Facebook site has introduced me to a new meaning for the word ‘pushing’.

If you don’t know, you will need to watch a 23 minute video which records cave diving in the deepest cave in Australia – one located in Tasmania’s south west.

The film, a revelation at so many levels, starts with the question ‘what is left to explore’. Compelling. Spell binding. Thought provoking. And you must continue watching through the credits because, unexpectedly you will find, more is shown.

Associated with the film, a blog post titled Push Day provides additional information.

Inspiring!

The Tasmanian government provides more about the Khazad-Dum cave.

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Dried food for meals in the future

My sister and I have the idea that we will walk Tasmania’s Three Capes Track in the near future; the date depends on when she can get four days clear from her busy work and life schedule, and whether we can choose good weather days (or, at least, not foul weather days).  We agreed to determine our own breakfast and lunch meals, and that I would create three different dinners for the evening meal.  At each of the specially built huts we expect to find a stove and saucepans and other cooking utensils for shared use.

When walking with a backpack over days, keeping the weight down is essential. With this in mind, recently I have spent hours drying a variety of vegetables to create distinct meals for us. 

Now that they are packaged, I suspect each meal may be sufficient for lunch leftovers the next day – depending on how much water I add to cook the meal.

Night one:

The meal is an Asian inspired concoction with tofu as the main protein, and sesame seeds as the garnish. The ingredients are dried parsley, mushrooms, peas, broccoli with 2min chicken flavoured noodles (not a chook in sight of these packages, so fine for vegans) plus tofu and sesame seed.

Night two:

The meal is a Moroccan inspired concoction with lentils as the protein and a chopped preserved lemon wedge for a tang, with slivered almonds as the garnish. The ingredients are dried garlic, potato, cauliflower, wild celery, pumpkin, and onions with Ras el Hanout spice, turmeric, orange lentils, wholemeal couscous, dried apricots (not dried by me – I have eaten all those dried from my own tree!), the preserved lemon and almonds to be added to the mix.

Night three:

The meal is an Italian inspired concoction with chick pea/pulse pasta as the protein, tomato paste mixed into Mediterranean vegetables, and topped with black olives. The ingredients are dried zucchini, celery, parsley, green marjoram, oregano, capsicum, silver beet plus pulse pasta, tomato paste, dry yeast powder, salt, white pepper, and I will take a small container of a few black olives.

The weight of these dinners is roughly 1.4kg to be shared. With the weight of breakfast and lunch to be added on, let’s say each of us will carry no more than 1.3 kg for all the food required for 4 days. I will be aiming to get that as close to 1kg for me – I am increasingly inclined to always add more water to each evening’s meals and then take cold leftovers for lunch each next day.  I am averse to carrying unnecessary grams.

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Opportunities to volunteer elsewhere in Tassie

Tasmania’s Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment is offering a range of extraordinary volunteering opportunities. Perhaps some blog followers may be interested to pursue one of the five options in the south of the state or the one option in the north west of Tasmania.  For further information read the details at here.

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Another RTBG day

While I wasn’t able to join my gardening friends at the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens (RTBG) on Thursday as usual, seven of our team turned up plus a newbie and everyone worked in the Food Garden with their usual commitment and verve. 

The sky was a mix of wide blue heavens and soft puffy white clouds – visually it was another glorious Thursday. However the temperature was icy with a southerly wind breezing air from the Southern Ocean and Antarctica in the far distance.  Robyn remarked ‘The weather – it was a ‘coat on, coat off’ kinda day, at one point a few drops of rain, but mostly beautiful, as per usual.’ I am particularly grateful for her photos of the Food Garden and willingness to share on this blog.   

In the first photo below, across from the Food Garden, notice the trees in the distance are showing their new green buds; before long those large shade trees will be covered in leaves.  The second photo shows a healthy artichoke plant.

Robyn wrote: ‘ Jobs today:

– Tony harvested cumquats, silverbeet, mustard greens, kale with the help of Neil and Adam 

– after weeding, Andrew added compost and rocket fuel to one of the central beds (post brussel sprouts). Adam is considering growing tomatoes in all of those central beds, like an avenue of toms. Andrew also turned the compost to make space for greens, weeds etc.

– we all weeded in the orchard, a massive job that is just always there!

– Adam asked Janet and I to harvest the tea and suggested rather than the backbreaking, tedious work of pinching out from the plants themselves, that we lightly prune the plants down to a growth node, then take the prunings back to the bench to pinch out the tips there. It was more comfortable – not bending down and on our knees in the tea patch – and I think it was more efficient. It will also encourage new growth on the plants. There will be more to do next week. Adam will ‘process’ today’s harvest and next week, we’ll have fresh green tea (we had the last of the previous harvest for morning tea today).’

Long term blog followers may recall that Robyn and I picked tea leaves last year; for those stories refer here and here. From Robyn’s report above, clearly the harvesting process is different this year. First the pruning, then the pinching, with the discards taken to the compost bin.

Robyn’s photos included a plant that attracted her attention, and one which I haven’t noticed before, so thanks – next week I will be on the lookout for the native watercress.

The sustained activity by everyone (by phone Robyn told me many arrived early and left late) and the generous spirit of cooperation pervades Robyn’s account of the day.  Many thanks.

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RTBG makes it into the Tasmanian Community Achievement Awards

You can see that the Food Garden of the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens (RTBG) was entered into the prestigious Tasmanian Community Achievement Awards and listed as a semi-finalist in that competition, here.

A few weeks ago RTBG reported on its Facebook, ‘we’re semi- finalists in the Tasmanian Community Achievement Awards! Congratulations to our staff and valued volunteers who look after our Community Food Garden! What a fantastic achievement to be listed as a 2020 semi-finalist in the Tasmanian Community Achievement Awards. Did you know our garden showcases best practice principles in organic and sustainable produce-growing techniques and demonstrates to visitors the variety of seasonal crops that can be easily grown in home gardens. The Community Food Garden produces over 1,500kg of produce each year which is donated to local charities who ensure it goes to the people in our community who need it the most.

The Tasprint Community Group of the Year Award recognises groups that make a significant contribution to their community. These community groups share a strong sense of team spirit, and play a vital role in enhancing the social, economic, commercial and environmental prosperity of their region. Whether it be working together on an event, restoration project, providing a service or program, it is important to recognise and encourage these groups, as their efforts help to make our communities stronger and more vibrant. Winners will be announced at the Awards Gala Presentation Dinner on Friday 6th November 2020!

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Plum tree

In mid-August, the red plum tree that was living here when I moved into the house had hundreds of bunches of flower buds waiting to burst open. At of the end of August a few were opening and on their way making the bees happy.

Now the tree is blooming in delicate fragile white flowers – in the month when we get our most notoriously strong wind gusts. So far most flowers have hung on.

This is one wonderful example of Spring springing glorious change!

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A walk around ‘our’ mountain

Not me this time. Rather friends walked on Hobart’s kunanyi/Mt Wellington, and offered to share the experience with photos.

Sandra offered a selection of ‘winter wonderland’ photographs from her recent walk. She said ‘The pics show a daytrip up the mountain on a beautiful sunny winter day. We drove up to the springs and walked up the icehouse track and then donned on the snow shoes and walked around the top of the mountain along the plateau between Dead Island and the mountain and came out along Thark track. A magical winter day on the mountain with amazing views.

Stunning!

The temperature might have been icy, but so many of our winter days were covered in  blue skies and sparkling sun making the landscape gorgeous to behold.

And the value of snow shoes is shown below.

Glorious. Thanks Sandra.

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Yummy steamed buns

In Hobart’s CBD, many new eateries offering various Asian cuisines have established themselves for the daytime and lunch markets. I was desperately hungry during one recent visit to the city and wandered into Yangs Dumplings.

As a vegan and not eating fried food, I am limited in what I can eat and choosy about where I eat. It was the menu that attracted me with one item; mushroom steamed buns. For a moment I considered they might not really suit my eating style but the name was tantalising and I was willing to try.

I didn’t know what to expect but placed an order. And waited. The buns were made from scratch – you can’t get fresher than that! And well worth the wait.

When the steamed basket was placed before me, the presentation was truly exciting. It seemed a shame to eat these buns.

I am familiar with the pristine white of ‘normal’ steamed buns. My mushroom buns had the appearance of real mushrooms. Their tops were marked as for a mushroom, and they had plump short ‘stalks’ beneath. I loved that attention to detail.

Despite being difficult to handle with chopsticks I worked at it and bit into the soft giving ‘flesh’ of the first bun. Almost melted in the mouth. No stodgy dough sticking to the roof of my mouth, and the juicy mushroom filling added the right savoury note.

What a delightful surprise. And the sort of treat I am bound to repeat!

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Codling moth – help is on its way

Do you grow apples, pears or quinces? Have you found that ugly brown excrement, frass, oozing from your fruit, then cut them open to find tunnels and sometimes a moving codling moth grub?

If so, read on to learn how to counteract the problem –if your fruit trees grow in Tasmania, and you haven’t already done so, then it is probably time for you to act (depending on your microclimate).

The GoodLife Permaculture site provides a wonderful and simple explanation of the codling moth cycle and what can be done about it. Read more here.

This GlobalNetAcademy site offers additional information.

For years I have pasted horticultural glue on one side of cardboard strips and wrapped them around the trunks of my pear and apple trees, and later found beautiful specimens of codling moth larvae trapped in there over time. But in recent years I have not thought carefully enough about when to do the wrapping. Judging by the volume of attacks on my pears and apples last year, I have failed. So in the first days of September this year, when I noticed the first buds about to unfurl their first leaves on my pear tree, I dispensed with the cardboard and directly taped the trunks and applied the sticky glue.

Will this work? Am I too late? Have the moths already laid their eggs? Only time will tell. Wait and watch. That’s the plan.

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