Petrified Wood

Issue 52 of the online magazine Tasmanian Geographic alerted me to another enlightening story. The Apple Isle Prospector presented a pictorial explanation of the Tasmanian natures.

Apparently our state’s petrified wood comes from Tertiary forests which grew between 66 and 2 million years ago, and can be found in basalt flows from that period. I was fascinated to learn it is the silica from the lava flows which gradually replaces the wood. You can read more here.

As a result of reading this article, I now know there are two types of petrified wood, so when I visit some of the listed areas I will become more vigilant and hope to understand what I am seeing – should I stumble across some petrified wood.

If you go to the author’s website here and dig down, when you read that version of the article a great deal more information becomes available. For example, the Lune River fossicking options are laid out. Please let me know if you come across some patches of petrified wood and whether you can decide if they are of the opalised or the chalcedonic types. Good luck!

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Thought for the day

The online magazine Tasmanian Geographic has a ‘last word’ at the bottom of a screen: ‘The more you know, the less you need.’ Ponder this for a while. Is it true for you?

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Forgotten Emus

I have been reading the free and fascinating online magazine Tasmanian Geographic  for years.  The nature of the articles and their quality always amazes me in the most positive way. Quite exciting.

A recent issue is no exception and helps to understand why the water next to Burnie on the north west coast of Tasmania was named Emu Bay and Emu River.

You can read the Editor’s full story here.

Emu and chicks

Image from page 83 of Annual Report – New York Zoological Society (1918) –via Flickr

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A special walk in north east Tasmania

Weeks ago, A brought a large bag of quinces to my house and subsequently I wrote a couple of blog posts showing how I used them.

Now I am delighted to find he has participated in a wonderful adventure and written it up in his latest blog posts accompanied by a sensational pictorial story. Please give yourself a treat and have a look at these stories.

Delve into each of the three-part series here (wukalina / Mount William) and here (krakani lumi) and here (larapuna- Eddystone Point)

Tasmania

The black outline on this map of Tasmania provides a very rough approximation of where A’s walks took place.

The walk, on the north east of Tasmania, is on my bucket list because it will let me experience over three days, a different kind of landscape and vegetation than those with which I am familiar from my walk along the Derwent River to Lake St Clair, my experiences in parts of the Tarkine, and casual excursions into Tasmania’s south-west wilderness.  A’s photos are exceptional and tell a story which should prompt Tassie residents to plan to visit this beautiful area, and one rich in social histories.  Mainlanders and overseas would-be visitors, please add this to your must-do list.

 

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Attempts at apple vinegar making

Previously I wrote a blog post with a link to a video which explained how to make apple vinegar versus cider.  You can review that video here.

In response to my posting, friend C sent me photos of her attempt in progress. She had obviously watched the video a while before I published the link. C told me ‘I started making cider vinegar on 15 May.

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On the left from my Sturmer apples and on the right from a variety of apples from Cygnet. After 1 week I strained out the apples and the result is the jars below.

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For some reason the Sturmers gave a lighter and clearer liquid. Tasting it now after 2 weeks the right jar starts to taste slightly sour, the left one from the Sturmers is still sweet.’

On the basis of C’s ongoing experiment, I decided to attempt vinegar making with one jar each of my home grown apples; Granny Smith and Pink Lady apples. On the 2nd June I followed the directives of the video.  I chopped the apples, added them into the largest jars I had (the remainder have been used in recent weeks for lots of produce preparations and storage), then dissolved raw sugar into water and poured it over the apples.

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I part filled small bags with water and pressed them on top of each jar hoping to keep the apples under the liquid to prevent a mouldy layer growing.

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A tea towel covered the pair of jars to allow oxygen but prevent normal dust etc from falling in. Now I must wait 2-3 weeks before straining off the liquid and squeezing out the additional juice from the fruit through a sieve, then continuing the process towards vinegar.

After 11 days I checked and found the water filled bag had rolled off one jar (presumably from the gas arising from early fermentation) and, while a tea towel stayed spread over the top, a smidgin of mould was growing on a small area of the top exposed apple. I picked these out, replaced the protective bag and stored both jars again in the dark beneath a tea towel. I was interested in the smell at this stage; both concoctions smelt clearly of apples and did not seem to have a vinegar edge.

After 23 days the jars looked like this.

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I strained off the juice and rebottled.

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Now they are back standing in the dark laundry, covered loosely with a tea towel, ready to oxidise for another three or so weeks by which time the concoction should have morphed into a palatable vinegar.

The Pink Lady apple liquid smelt like fresh apples while the Granny Smith apple jar had a less crisp smell.  Neither tasted like vinegar.  I imagine vinegar will result eventually. Meanwhile this is an interesting experiment.

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Common mullein – a toilet paper alternative?

Each month ABC’s magazine Gardening Australia fills my letterbox. While it is always packed with fascinating information and temptations to try new methods and plants, it is through the competition crossword that I learn the most.

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July’s issue (which arrived in June and I have now absorbed) asked for a word meaning ‘plant also known as common mullein’ and gave a photo of an upper stem with open flowers.  I didn’t recognise that portion of the plant nor had I heard of ‘common mullein’. So off I went to ‘trusty’ Google and discovered Wikipedia with a plethora of alternative names and found Aaron’s Rod was the one that fitted.  But, beastly careless, I wanted to know what the plant looked like.

The Motherearthliving website showed me photographs.

To my surprise I recognised a plant that I routinely pull as a weed from my garden; one that has self-seeded from elsewhere.  Out into my garden I went and found  three healthy specimens; this time I have left them to grow.

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Out on the street I saw one growing through the bitumen.

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In the past when I let these ‘weeds’ grow, if I remember correctly it was a long hard root to remove and that is why I have been pulling them when still at this size or smaller. But maybe a few won’t hurt.

Apparently this plant has many useful medicinal and other purposes. The RXLIST website says, ‘The flower is used to make medicine. Mullein is used for cough, whooping cough, tuberculosis, bronchitis, hoarseness, pneumonia, earaches, colds, chills, flu, swine flu, fever, allergies, tonsillitis, and sore throat. Other uses include asthma, diarrhoea, colic, gastrointestinal bleeding, migraines, joint pain, and gout. It is also used as a sedative and as a diuretic to increase urine output. Mullein is applied to the skin for wounds, burns, haemorrhoids, bruises, frostbite, and skin infections (cellulitis). The leaves are used topically to soften and protect the skin. In manufacturing, mullein is used as a flavouring ingredient in alcoholic beverages.’ Healthline says ‘The leaves are harvested near the bottom of the plant and used either fresh or dried to make various products. Mullein oil is extracted from the flower or leaves of the plant. The oil is used as a remedy for earaches, eczema, and some other skin conditions’. Then this site proceeds to provide a list of all the other possible uses.

But is it edible?  The seeds are poisonous. The website Ediblefoods says ‘Although the leaves and flowers are edible, enjoying a cup of tea made from these parts is generally preferable. Leaves and flowers can be used in a salad.’

I have always loved the look of their soft looking leaves and the way they wear delicate pale grey/greens. I like the way they stay compact although, if let grow, each of the lower leaves can be 20 or more centimetres long so they provide a decent ground cover.  Now I know more about this ‘weed’ in my garden I will keep a few, and later try their flowers and leaves in a salad.

Apparently the soft leaves are wonderful for wiping your bum clean.  Keep that in mind for the next pandemic when the supermarket shelves have emptied of toilet paper!

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Peter Rabbit’s garden is shaping up

In previous blog posts (read here) we have seen K’s new garden beds. Today’s post shows the latest development.

K told me, ‘The expansion update continues.
It’s a bit hard to make out but the rectangular shape of the original bed is outlined by the timber posts on the left hand side of the photo below. It sat at a very awkward angle to the new beds and we knew from the beginning it would have to be replaced. I started moving some plants from it up to the second bed because I couldn’t bear to compost or dig them in. A neighbour had gifted the red cabbages as seedlings and there were about 10 self-seeded Chinese broccoli that deserved a chance with transplants. 

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Below I had started moving some of the soil to allow space for the new frame to go in, and the garden bed and fence timber had all been disassembled by M. The frame was originally constructed from treated pine (something I wouldn’t do again for an edibles garden bed) but even so there was a lot of borer damage and completely dry rotted sections in some of those old sleepers. 

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The new Peter Rabbit bed starts taking its new shape. 

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The reshaped bed has the same dimensions, in length, width, and number of sleepers high, as the one above it. It lines up with the line of the upper beds on the far side to allow more room between the fence and the driveway at this point. In a weird optical illusion it actually appears to be smaller than its twin though. 

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We have recycled the original Peter Rabbit Garden gate. And sticking with this temporary fencing while we weigh up our permanent options. We’ll need to keep the beds protected from pademelons, occasional wallabies, rabbits and possums on the ground. The timber gate and posts are now the weakest point for possum access. The rest of the temporary fence is steel pickets and wire attached loose enough to allow movement if something tries to climb it. The possums don’t like the movement but if they wanted in they could definitely climb over the wire even without the bonus timber because it isn’t the full floppy required for possum proofing. 

On the top bed you can see some old security screens and chicken wire protecting the green manure seed underneath it from the birds. I haven’t done the same for the bottom bed yet and the wood pigeons and blackbirds have been pretty quick to figure that out.

If I did this over, I probably wouldn’t have saved the veg from the original bed. If I green manured all three beds in preparation for spring then the soil in the middle bed would also be much better for it once cut down and incorporated. So I am still wavering on whether to treat them all the same. The infrastructure to-do list for the near future in this area still includes: finalising the boundaries of the temporary fence, irrigation, wind protection, planning bird protection for the summer crops. 

On a side note, I’m not sure if I explained the original rectangular bed got its name from the “Peter Rabbit” fence that M built to keep the rabbits and pademelons out. Now that the expansion is being realised, I’ve started referring to the whole space as the Peter Rabbit Suite. I expect I will adopt names to reference the top two beds over time, perhaps as boring as Middle and Top or maybe something more inspired than that.’

I love the detail of the explanation of the processes. This is an interesting project and I look forward to the next update. Thanks K.

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Lunch with RTBG friends

It all started when A of the Food Garden at the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens (RTBG) invited all  its volunteers to lunch at his property.  Immediately we considered the tasty treats we could create from any of our gardens, and looked forward to seeing each other again. Naturally I focused on weeds; there had to be another weed soup for the occasion! Others focused on meat and vegetables.

I foraged for a dandelion and its look-a-likes and ended with half a large bucket of the leaves of one dandelion, one cat’s ear and a mountain of milkthistle plants. After extensive washing and more washing and then the weeding out of unknown weeds, I had a large bowl of edible leaves.

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These were boiled into a soup of vegetable stock, garlic, onion, Dutch Cream potatoes, sweet potato and seasoned with white and black pepper.  Then blended.  Ready to take to the party.

Fifteen of us gathered, and then for a few hours we meandered, chatted amiably, wandered some more and enjoyed the extensive garden.

As usual whenever we all come together the weather was sunny and the sky blue. The hard contrasts of the afternoon sun were extreme, making taking useful photos a challenge.

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Three different outdoor cooking sites seemed excessive but each had its role; a venison on the Weber shown above, venison shanks on the open fire at the top of the block, and kebabs and more on the BBQ.

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Hot pots of alcoholic and non-alcoholic gluhwein were perpetually heated for our consumption.

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The remnants of many denuded brassicas were a testament to the well-developed urge by a large wallaby to hop over the high wooden back fence then out of the property across another high side fence after eating lots of new growth and more.

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But apparently the taste of lettuce is not to its liking; these plants were untouched, and some brassicas remained in a whole state.

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Hay bales rotting away seemed to act as a means of controlling water flow down a very steep block.

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Bees buzzed helpfully in and out from their hives.

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The guinea pigs shyly hid from view. Without attention, they are wonderful grass mowers.

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Spring bulbs were bursting through and flowering everywhere.

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Flowering correa offered splashes of colour.

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Inside there was some standing around enjoying the warmth pumping from the wood heater. At one end of the room we marvelled at a few slow moving small dragons resting and living comfortably in a glass chamber.

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On one wall hung an extraordinary photo of A’s partner A’s father in Antarctica watching a baby albatross. Sensational.

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The camaraderie doesn’t stop. We keep meeting and feeling that the mutually agreeable excitement we have for our gardens and the RTBG Food Garden, never ceases.  Everyone enjoyed the sumptuous meal and finished with L’s perfectly formed and very tasty banana cake.

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This was a wonderful afternoon of warm generous hospitality and of renewed great friendships, which augers well for all our futures.  Thanks A and A.

 

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Frost and its effects

When you wake on a winter morning and look out onto your garden, a crystallised sheet of white may be spread across the ground. If you live in a colder place this frost might extend upwards and over all your plants in a hoar frost – when I lived in Armidale NSW I saw such an icy spectacle one morning and was entranced. Then went back inside to my heated house!

Recently my comparatively warmish patch in Bellerive has shuddered with occasional sharp cold snaps – which always leads to blue sky gorgeous days. A superficial layer of frost remained on one particular morning until almost 10am.  I scurried out to take the photo and then back inside to stay warm.  Only the ground was white while my plants seemed undisturbed.

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Usually, white across the ground means that the surrounding plants will be affected.  If some of their cells have frozen and then thawed, the sight can be a sad one – limp, lost looking plants.  Usually as the day warms they bounce back, but not always.  Sometimes sufficient cell life or plant structure is killed off and the plant will die.

This website explains that during a frost ‘ice crystals form on the surface of the plant (“white”). The water in between plant cells freezes and draws water out of surrounding cells to form more ice’.

If you think of a plant’s operating systems, these include Xylem and Phloem channels which bring nutrients and water up from the ground and distribute the sugar and mineral effects of sunlight and photosynthesis down from the leaves through the plant to the roots.

Structure of a plant

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This system operates in a vacuum and if a bubble of air gets in or the gases or liquids can’t move because some cells are frozen for too long, the chain of action gets broken and there is no way in the world the plant can remove the air bubble or restart the flows. That means death.

West of Hobart , the town of New Norfolk is nestled in a stunningly beautiful part of the Derwent Valley. Friend V has suffered many plant losses over the past weeks due to heavy frost in the Fairview area.  Vi ‘s photograph’s show the remains of a recent frost. The crystallisation around plant leaves is clearly evident on part of her arum lilies and geraniums.

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The wilting below is clear on other arum lily leaves with some leaves curling up in horror.

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New shoots on the passionfruit vine are softly frosted; soft to the eye and very hard on the plant.

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It is the flowers of her white flowering daisy that have been affected; they look wet and limp.

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Sister J sent me a sad story telling photograph of her jasmine showing frost burnt leaves.

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Mostly these plants will go on to thrive. However in a climate of increasingly severe contrasts – from temperatures in the minus degrees in winter to the plus 40 degrees in summer, I suspect we will all need to reconsider which plants will be able to live here in southern Tasmania. Wishing and hoping that the climate will return to the more moderate nature of the past will probably become increasingly foolish.

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This time, last year at the RTBG

The date was the 27th June 2019, and my day at the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens (RTBG) was so full that I needed to write two blog posts. You can read the first here and the second here.

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What an exciting day it was – picking olives, learning how to prepare and preserve them, and then coming home and trying the processes. Three jars of my preserved olives remain in storage. I set myself the goal of opening them after two years. The idea is to treat them like a good wine which will improve with age.

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