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What a great season as the garden and native bee sanctuary begins to really get its roots downs! Large numbers of a variety of different native bees, madly pollinating and enjoying the diersity of the gardens. This year a fab year for figs, kiwifruit, strawberries, plums, all the herbs, midyim berries and more!
The gardens continue to grow and provide nectar and pollen for the bees and yumness for humans. The farm is now open on special open days and for pre-booked bus tours. This is allowing us to concentrate on more production, the farmstay and farmers markets.
A couple of years of hecticness! Lots of growing, planting, harvesting and guided touring throught the gardens!
- native stingless bees in the log hive have closed up their entry door to keep the heat in
- yum...first of the Loquats fruiting and consumed - what a deliciously sweet fruit! Will just need to keep our fruit fly program up (using organic baits and traps) so we don't get any fly probs
- last of the wild hibiscus (rosella) pulled out for the season...so sad to farewell this plant until next summer - it's given us so much joy watching it grow and harvesting it for rosella jam, rosella cordial and dried rosella tea (which we hear they call Egyptian Red in the city)
- rows and rows of garlic planted into beds improved with green manure crops and real manure from the animals
- Blue-banded bees and teddy bear bees making the most of the lemon balm and bergamot (bee balm) flowers
Lots of activity with the honey bees, native bees and gardens are taking off!
- Spring has sprung....farmgate shop and gardens open!
- Katy and Jamie from England helped us art up the farm by painting bee hives, signs and bringing their own colourful characters to the project! We've been lucky to have them!
- We dug in Wormtropolis our high rise living for worms, and now worms are on board
- Final touches to the Bee Motel in place
- The bathroom, dye, aromatherapy gardens all planted out - yay!
- Andrew finished nailing the 4,500th nail into the beautiful deck off our farmgate shop
- The kids helped us dig the last 60 tree holes, and Helen and Bruce swung by to give us a hand
- Finished drying ingredients for our first batch of teas (...including orange peel, lemongrass, rose geranium, lemon balm and more)
- Eric bottled up our delicious new honey BB! and honey chilli sauces - YUM!
June & July
- It's been wet and rainy but good weather for the final bit of plant research to decide which plants will be going into the tea garden, dye garden, sensory garden and bathroom garden...dig, dig, dig, plant, plant, plant
- Plank by plank, nail by nail we've been building the tasting deck where you will be able to sample our new range of infused honeys, our herbal teas and some sun-baked treats...while taking in the gorgeous views
April & May 2012
- Harvested our first crop of Rosella (native hibiscus) and turned it into super delicious cordial...ready for tasters when the farmgate shop open later this year
- Helpx wonders Danny & Laura from England helped build the fence around the farmgate shop with kindess and skill...lots of holes were dug and nails hammered in!
- The recycled shipping container was delivered by a truck driver called "Mumma"...meaning we could get to work on converting it into a farmgate shop & tasting deck
- Lots of work being done on the plant database and plant signage in readiness for installation
February & March
- First native bee hives installed
- Thu 29th...went on a bee hunt with Tim Heard in search of Teddy Bear bees, Carpenter Bees and Blue-banded bees - toooo much funnnnnnnnnn!
- Tue 27th - shipping container arrives - whoo hoo - now just need to put all the finishing touches to our eco-friendly farmgate shop
- Work keeps progressing on the plant database that will link botanical signs to the website so visitors can enjoy lots of rich interpretation material, learning more about plants they are interested in
- Taro, Arrowroot & Yacon planted - yum!
- Luke & Elysha planted the bee runway to the bee motel area..full of gorgeous flowering plants
- Signed off on plans for the recycled shipping container conversion into our farmgate shop & honey tasting bar...awaiting arrival so it can be fitted out with doors & windows!
- Planted some really useful species of clumping bamboo thanks to Mark McCarthy our local bamboo whiz
- Helpxers Netti & Phil helped (amazingly!) with the creation of the Bee Motel
- Helpxers Charles, Laure & Gilles helped tame the grass that thanks to weeks of rain was growing faster than most of the plants! Charles showed what fencing looks like when it's done French-style, with fencing for the animals area moving along nicely
- Planted a little grove of tagasaste with return Helpxer Emily...a year from now the bees will enjoy the early spring blooms!
- Thanks to all the work from Luke & Alysha, wwoofers & Rod the Beeman on his bobcat, the Australian native garden miraculously got planted, tree guarded and started growing! WOW!
- Oskar and Toni, wwoofers from Finland and Lena & Oliver from Germany arrived just in time to help us move truckloads (literally!) of mushroom compost & mulch- thanks guys!
- Ripping of the Bushtucker section of the garden began
- Helped by wonderful (and that's an understatement) wwoofers Mira Grillovich (Austria), Winja Baumfried (Austria) and Mirjam Crillovich-Cocoglia (France) we got down to the business of marking out the cottage garden plan, rotary hoeing and preparing for mulch arrival...and yay - the girls held a cermony to plant the first plant into the cottage garden...a purple sugarcane!
- Ordered plants for the Cottage Garden section including everything from liquorice to lemon balm, soapwort to sugarcane
- Began planning the conversion of a recycled shipping container into a farmgate shop & honey tasting bar
- November 2011
- Began planting & mulching some key trees including: carobs, pine nuts, pecans, lychees, persimmons, cork oaks, ginkgo, jaboticabas, loquats and tung oil...so many more to go!
- Planted tagasaste (false lucerne) as nurse maid trees for the main trees. The tagasaste will get their roots down and help keep the soil friable, as well as provide us with mulch and great flowers for the bees to enjoy
- Luke Kramer & Alicia created the plan for the bushtucker/natives section
- Tanya Sawyer spent hours creating a wonderful design for the cottage garden section
September & October 2011
Tue 13th - the big irrigation tank arrived, with a bit of rolling and heaving and shoving eventually got it into the right place!
Thu 8/Fri 9th - Tim Heard, entomologist and one of Australia's foremost native bee experts, joined us on the farm to help us with planning for the native bee sanctuary. Ohmygawsh this guy is full of interesting facts, funny tidbits and amazing insights into stingless bees. Wow - what a pleasure to listen and learn from a long time native bee lover. And the honey...you've never tasted anything like sugarbag honey! Hopefully though when we have our honey tasting bar and farmgate shop up and running you'll be able to taste some of Tim's sugarbag...it's top shelf stuff!
Tue 6th - Bucko arrived with another load of sawdust and got bogged! Onya Bucko! But he's a good teacher so he got the only person on the farm who can't drive a tractor or a manual (that would be me, Anna), and taught me how to do both. Soon the truck was free and a lot of laughs had we.
Mon 5th: Bucko arrived with the first load of sawdust mix which will make up most of the organic matter to fill the water retention pits. Started day dreaming about all the different types of plants we can choose from for the cottage garden section...mmmmm....
Sun 4th: Added a 3rd of a bag of dolomite to all the mounds (above the pits), dug it in and then sprinkled some summer active clover on top as a green manure. Had the help of the kids and the grandad so got a fair bit done...including moving piles and piles of firewood. The kids discovered the deep holes that have been dug to support the trellis for the kiwi fruit planting and had lots of fun disappearing in them.
Fri 2nd: Pop helped out moving piles of kindling off the hillside, and Luke (landscaper) and Alicia (botanist) visited to talk about the vision for the bushtucker area...finger limes, macadamias, midyim berries and plenty more! Solar oven roasted wattle seed anyone?
Thu 1st - Orange-loving Peter from Get Real Landscaping summonsed his sensors to mark out contours, while supervising Neville Earthworks who removed stumps and began digging all the pits for the trees (this is where you scoop some earth out and pile it up, giving a nice spot for water to collect and hold while the roots of the tree get a nice raised mound in which to grow. The lovely Ian Mobbs from Krambach Chainsaws & Pumps came by to give much needed advice and wisdom on the irrigation set up.
Tue 30th & Wed 31st: Mike Whitney and the crew from Channel 7's Sydney Weekender joined us on the farm for some fun and filming...so not much work on the hillside project today!
Thu 25th - Peter from Get Real Landscaping spent the day on the hill with us dipping hundreds of stakes in coloured pots of paint so we could mark out where we'd be putting paths, beds and trees. Green means path edges, white means trees, orange stripes means contours, blue means...uh oh, maybe green means garden beds, white means contours and blue means...? Hopefully we'll get it right tomorrow! The poor hillside is looking like a big pin cushion.
Fri 26th: Simon from Cutting Edge Tree Services - or as we like to call him "Michaelangelo" - completed dead tree felling. But no ordinary tree man, he carved and sculpted a tree stump into a throne, another into a chair and a log into a lounge! We also picked out blocks of wood to use as stepping stones through one of the gardens. A few huge piles of mulch were also created, meaning the trees will return to the soil from which they'd sprung.
Tue 26th - Yay! Found out we were successful with the TQUAL Grant which will help us with irrigation, plant purchase and development of a small honey tasting bar in a recycled shipping container!
Sent in our application for the TQUAL Grant
Can't get the idea out of our heads that we want to plant an amazing garden full of species of importance to humanity, and that will provide a great habitat for Australian native bees. We want the garden to help improve food and species resilience in the area, as well as to educate and inspire others to think about productive plantings in their backyards and communities....ummm....but we know we can't do it alone!
Out of the blue, we get an email from an old friend of ours - Ken Hawkins. We'd worked with him years ago on Heron Island where he was the garden wizard (and you need to be a wizard on an island made of coral sand with no topsoil!). He'd gone on to design ethnobotanical gardens around the world (Laucala Resort in Fiji, as well as gardens in the Maldives, the United Arab Emirates, Far North QLD etc), so we asked him: "Would you come down to good ol' Nabiac, NSW?" . He replied: "My pa says I'll get a nose bleed if I go that far south", but he came anyway!
And we're so glad he did! Over a couple of days he graciously and generously listened to our vision and translated it to paper, giving us a design that helped us see our bare hillside paddock in a totally different way. Then he jetsetted away for his next international gig leaving our kids wondering where all the fun pencils and stencils had gone. Ken Hawkins - thank you!