My Freycinet experience …

Last week I repeated a walk I did in Tasmania twenty years ago and strangely … it seemed a lot harder this time.  It’s probably fair to say that I slightly over-estimated my fitness level, and under-estimated my age!  Nevertheless, I made it to the last day, and managed to eat everything that was put in front of me (and a few things that weren’t).

Looking fresh at the beginning of the day in Bluestone Bay

The Freycinet Peninsula is one of Tasmania’s most beautiful spots, and once you get away from the usual trails and into the bush, solitude, wildlife and deserted beaches abound. Guides Nick and Sarah were very knowledgeable which greatly enriched our experience, and for the benefit of the foreigners amongst the group, we “enriched” it even further with tales of venomous snakes, spiders, ticks, leeches, sharks and other endearing Australian creatures.

I walked for four days with Freycinet Experience Walk.  Each day we were taken by vehicle or boat to a remote spot, to walk back to our comfortable eco-lodge – the only lodge within Freycinet National Park. Hidden in the sand dunes behind Friendly Beaches, the lodge with its comfy lounges, well-stocked library and indigenous art was a welcome sight at the end of each day.

Near the end of Day Two – OMG!

Somehow, the wonderful Gemma and Dan managed to produce fresh tasty food every day, even catering dairy-free, gluten-free, no red meat and vegetarian.  Unfortunately, I eat everything, and it was the thought of their food that kept me going on days two and three …

Next on my walking list will be something a little less strenuous, perhaps Bruny Island?

Lilly Pilly time …

Three years ago I turned a section of the garden into a small native plantation, hoping to cut down on erosion and mowing, and to provide a bit of extra bird habitat.  Unsurprisingly, this year ALL the Lilly Pillys flowered and fruited abundantly and I panicked and was forced to pop several kilograms of fruit in the freezer.

Way too much fruit
Way too much fruit

To process the Lilly Pillys, first you leave the container outside on its side for a few hours to give the insects a chance to escape … especially the ones that bite.

Let the insects escape
Let the insects escape

Then you rinse them and pick out the rubbish – stems, leaves and bruised fruit etc…

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Then you either pop them in the freezer for later use, or …

You make Lilly Pilly Gin (of course!) Give them a quick blast in the food processor, and then put them in a glass jar with a bottle of reasonable quality gin.

Now I have to wait for a few weeks for the Lilly Pillies to infuse their colour and taste. Which will give me time to research Lilly Pilly cocktails …

 

Queen of the Night …

It’s been good news almost daily since New Year’s Day …

The Rain God smiled, and instead of useless sprinkles, we’ve had decent heavy showers, bringing the total this year to just over 60mm of garden saving rain.

Almost as exciting as the rain has been my very first Queen of the Night flower. This plant is technically a cactus but doesn’t seem to have a problem with Bellingen’s bouts of extreme humidity.

Nearly ready to flower
Nearly ready to flower

Each flower lasts for just one night, so if you forget to go out after dark to check, you miss it completely.

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This must surely be one of nature’s most spectacular flowers and well worth a nocturnal walk. These photos were taken with a torch and an iPhone in the drizzle. With the proper photographic equipment you’d be able to see just how delicate and impressive the flowers are.

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The next morning it’s all over, the flower has closed, and that night it starts to shrivel.

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The flower closes at first light

 

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The next evening it starts to droop and shrivel

 

 

World’s Smallest Bananas ?

Bananas (and Paw Paws) are gross feeders and drinkers, so if you’ve got a boggy spot in your garden, they are the perfect thing to plant. However, when the rain stops and the town goes on to Level 3 water restrictions – you have a problem.

My Musa Pisang Ceylon banana, fruiting for the first time this year, started spring with the most magnificent inflorescence I have ever seen, and I was hopeful of a bounteous crop. But a hot gusty wind bent the already dehydrated trunk over and my hopes were dashed.  I ended up with hands of what might be the world’s smallest bananas.

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Musa Pisang Ceylon inflorescence

I was quite surprised when one by one they started ripening, and they turned out to be the sweetest bananas I had ever tasted. Not wanting to waste them, I revisited one of my old posts from back in “the dreamtime” when we used to have regular floods and rainfall of between 1,500 and 3,000 mm per annum!

The banana bread recipe I linked to my old post no longer exists, so here is a link to my recipe which I have modified slightly to reduce the rather horrifying sugar content of the original. Still just as nice and with a rich caramel taste.

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Easy Banana Bread …

 

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Easy Banana Bread Recipe

This is an easy banana bread recipe. It has a light texture and a rich caramel taste.
It is the only banana bread I have baked which doesn’t sink substantially as it cools.

  • 120gm (4.2 oz) butter
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups self raising flour
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 heaped tsp bicarb soda
  • 1/4 cup golden syrup or treacle for a richer taste
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 30mls (1 fluid oz) coffee – a normal coffee machine shot
  • 400 gm very ripe bananas – mashed

Preheat the oven to 150C (300F) degrees. Grease and line a large loaf tin with paper and hang the paper over the sides to assist with removal.

  • Cream the butter and sugar in an electric mixer (which takes approximately 5 minutes, the colour will change to light brown)
  • Add eggs and beat well until combined (The mixture may seem curdled)
  • Add flour, cinnamon, nutmeg and bicarb and continue to mix until just combined.
  • Add mashed bananas, golden syrup or treacle, vanilla and coffee and mix until just combined.
  • Pour mixture into a LARGE greased and lined loaf tin
  • Bake for 60mins or until set – check about half way through and turn the tin if the bread is browning unevenly.

Store in the fridge for up to a week but serve at room temperature with cream, ice-cream or yoghurt and maybe some fresh strawberries.

Spring disappointment …

It’s been a disappointing spring. The first two months being colder than usual, and November so far being hot and windy. Coupled with almost no rain, the result has been fewer than usual spring blooms.  Native bees do not appreciate this sort of weather.

After two months of impatient waiting, I finally allowed myself to check the honey super  on my native beehive – to discover no honey and a partially blocked hole. My local bee advisor suggests that they are not ready to fill the honey pot yet and that I need to wait impatiently for another couple of months.

Hoping the holes mean that they will fill the pot later?
Hoping the holes mean that they will fill the pot later?
In the meantime, just so there’s no doubt that I’m running a bee friendly garden, I’ve named my garden “maam dungaarrgundi” which means “place of bees” in the local indigenous Gumbaynggirr language. Native bees are welcome, stingless or otherwise.

Maam dungaarrgundi - place of bees in Gumbaynggirr
Maam dungaarrgundi – “place of bees” in Gumbaynggirr
A lack of flowers doesn’t stop the native bees from keeping up with the housekeeping – the Poo Patrol regularly brings out rubbish in the form of little pellets.  So I decided to do some housekeeping of my own. Thinking that the Bee Motel that I created several years ago had been all but abandoned, I moved it to a shadier spot and then decided to clean out the nest holes. Ooops – I very nearly killed a pretty Homalictus bee which emerged spluttering and covered in dust.  Thankfully, the rest of the holes only contained little dead bodies.

The European bees are busy in the pecan catkins, and hover flies are still around, but I’m not holding out much hope for a good native bee season unless we get some meaningful rain.  All very disappointing.

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European bee in pecan catkins

 

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Hover fly on salvia

Pigface … who knew?

Whilst I’m waiting (somewhat impatiently) for my native bees to provide me with a little pot of honey, I thought I’d write about the most fabulous bee attracting plant I have thus far encountered.

My volunteer gardening group planted some donated Pigface cuttings around a very ugly gas tank at our local hospital. We weren’t allowed to plant anything flammable on account of the bushfire risk, so Pigface seemed like a great idea.  We stuffed the cuttings into the gravel with a small handful of partly rotted wood mulch, stood back, said a small prayer to the Garden God and then walked away.

Well, this Pigface which we assume is Carpobrotus glaucescens, has turned out to be an absolute stunner.

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It seems to thrive on neglect, and grows enthusiastically in the worst conditions, but the thing that surprised us the most is its attractiveness to native bees.

Eleven Bees - mostly in focus miraculously
Eleven Bees – mostly in focus miraculously

The record bee count in one flower is thirteen. They are almost impossible to photograph as they enthusiastically go about their business filling their pollen pants.

Thirteen bees - a World Record?
Thirteen bees – a World Record?

I apologise for the wobble on this video, but it was taken on my iPhone, I didn’t have a tripod and I was kneeling in a bed of gravel (ouch!).

Needless to say, I now have cuttings planted all the way up one side of my driveway, and I’ll be interested to see if the fruit that follows the flowers does indeed look like a pig’s face and whether or not they taste like salty apples as claimed. I have a feeling they might be an acquired taste.