My first Black Sapote fruit …

I’m only going to mention it one more time … we had the summer from HELL. But then the weather turned cooler, we had a minor flood and everything returned to normal.

Remarkably my garden survived on half the usual amount of water, which probably means that I have, in the past, overwatered. A lesson learnt.  Some more fragile plants succumbed whilst others like the Black Sapote toughed it out and even fruited tentatively for the first time.

Not knowing a lot about sapotes, I now realise that I harvested the fruit a little early. Instead of taking 7-10 days to turn black, it took nearly a month. And I wasted a few by cutting them open prematurely.  You pick the fruit whilst still green but slightly yellow, and when the calix starts to lift. Then you have to wait until the whole fruit turns black and feels mushy all over when you squeeze it – in fact when it reaches the stage that you would normally throw fruit in the compost – it’s perfect!

As each fruit ripened, I scooped out the pulp and stored it in the freezer until I had enough to make a batch of ice-cream.

I will shortly be posting my recipe variations for Black Sapote ice-cream, or mousse for those of you who don’t have an ice-cream machine, or can’t be bothered waiting!

 

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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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

Lazybees …

Today is the first day of spring and I’ve put my native bees on notice.

They’ve had a lazy winter.  Whilst their European relatives toiled daily, returning to their hives (wherever they are?) with loads of pollen, my bees snoozed, only venturing forth on warm days to clean out the poo and make a few half-hearted forays into the garden.

No more excuses.  The weather is warmer, I’ve seen them out and about, and there are plenty of flowers in the garden … so now it’s time for them to provide me with some honey.

You might recall that twelve months ago, being a bit impatient, I attempted to fool my bees into giving me some honey by removing the top of the hive and placing a small container over the access hole .  My bees promptly sealed it up and went back to the business of collecting pollen.

This time I’ve gone professional and ordered a proper Honey Super kit from Sydney Native Stingless Bees.  The helpful Melissa sent me several honey pots, a honey super and two straps to secure the hive.

Roof in place
Roof back in place – messy little devils aren’t they!

I’ll have to wait 6-8 weeks before peeking, but as my Bee Beds are about to burst into flower, I have high hopes that by the beginning of November I’ll have a little native bee honey to drizzle on my morning yoghurt.

Bee Beds ready to flower
Bee Beds ready to flower

Rosella bath time …

Midway through a phone conversation with my mother nearly two thousand kilometres away in Adelaide I was “forced” to put her on hold, whilst I dived for my camera.

I had just seen something quite interesting in the garden …

Crimson Rosellas from my balcony
Rosella bath time

A family of Crimson Rosellas was enthusiastically bathing in my pond. Now, crimson and royal blue are not normally colours anyone would wear (except perhaps on a football vest) but somehow, when nature puts them together it looks wonderful.

Parading around the pond

They are not an uncommon bird on the East Coast of Australia, but this is the first time that I’ve noticed them in my garden, so I was quite excited. They hung around just long enough for me to finish my call to Mum and record a short video.

Keep an eye out for the smallest Rosella bravely performing a couple of spurts of freestyle across the pond!