Tea from the Camellia sinensis plant

On a recent visit to China we did a tour of the Seven Star Tea Plantation which is about 6 kilometres north of Yangzhou.

It is run as an organic farm, with no pesticides being used.

tea ceremonyWe felt privileged to have a tasting of the new season’s green tea (not yet available for sale) served by the Master Tea maker.

As well as learning how to serve tea, we got to have a look at the production area where the tea was being dried and then fermented for the various black teas.

This experience has made me want to try to make my own green tea so I have planted three Camellia sinensis plants. Of course it will be a couple of years till I can harvest.

tea plantCamellia sinensis is native to East, South and Southeast Asia. It is an evergreen shrub that is usually trimmed to below 2 m when cultivated for its leaves. It has a strong taproot.

The young, light green leaves are preferably harvested for tea production. Older leaves are deeper green.

Different leaf ages produce differing tea qualities, since their chemical compositions are different.

Usually, the tip (bud) and the first two to three leaves are harvested for processing. This hand picking is repeated every one to two weeks.

tea plantationCamellia sinensis is mainly cultivated in tropical and subtropical climates, in areas with at least 127 cm of rainfall a year.

Tea plants prefer a rich and moist growing location in full to part sun.

Tea plants will grow into a tree if left undisturbed, but cultivated plants are pruned to waist height for ease of plucking.

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Long Nosed Bandicoot – Friend or Foe

We have had a lot of holes being dug around the garden and some of my plants have been pulled out of the ground.

I had also seen a lot of digging in the compost heap, so I set the night camera up to see who was responsible and sure enough we have a long nosed bandicoot.

A bandicoot could either be seen as a pest or a pest controller — depending on what it eats and where it eats it.

bandicoot at night

Bandicoots are designed to eat underground food, although they won’t go past insects and even berries found on the ground.

With a sensitive nose they can readily sniff out insects, worms, roots and even fungi. Once a food item is located, they scoop out a conical hole with the rake-like claws on their front feet.

The long, pointed face probes the bottom of the hole and any food is quickly pinched out between fine, needle-like teeth.

They have been using these skills to dig up and eat my sweet potatoes. To try to thwart them I had placed chicken wire over the ground and used tent pegs to hold it in place. However they have worked out how to get underneath. I will need to use longer pegs to provide more of a challenge.

Usually the bandicoots would be providing a useful service by eating the lawn grubs, however my vegetable garden seems to be far more attractive.

Northern brown and long-nosed bandicoots mainly give birth from late winter to the following autumn but will breed throughout the year. This would coincide with the times when scarab beetles and other insects are available in their underground larval stage.

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Our Ethical Audit

audit checklist

Reading through an article in a gardening club newsletter I was taken with the theme of doing my own ethical audit.

We are very far from a low footprint but have tried over the past few years to be more aware and less wasteful.

 

 

  • We grow our own organic vegetables and fruit, however not enough to totally sustain us. This said each year we are eating more from the garden and reducing what we buy.
  • We make our own jam and sauces, sometimes our bread.
  • We do try to source as much locally grown or fair-trade food as possible and are very conscious of its place of origin.
  • We seek to only buy Australian caught fish – fresh, however have fallen down with a few tins of tuna and salmon.
  • We buy Australian manufactured cleaning products which are garden/septic safe and highly concentrated, with no wasteful packaging.
  • We reuse, refuse and recycle. Each year we reduce what we waste, most importantly we buy less and waste less. We are happy that when we put our bins out for collection they are half empty.
  • We have replaced lights with energy efficient bulbs
  • We do not have air conditioning and have installed blinds and window film to reduce radiant heat.
  • We have no mains water or sewerage so are very conscious of how these precious resources are managed.
  • We compost all organic matter which is eventually put back into the garden.
  • Try to reduce our use of electric appliances and where possible buy manual equivalents.
  • Try to reduce our use of plastics and avoid anything which is designed to use only once.

Our goal is to reduce our dependence on the supermarkets, buy locally or direct from farmers where possible and be kind to our environment.

Our journey over the past 9 years has been amazing, from being overwhelmed with what we didn’t know to the joy of picking fruit and vegetables for our meals.

Our glorious native animals and birds within reach, the beauty of the Australian landscape, all on our doorstep.

How lucky are we?

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Keeping the Birds from eating all the Figs!

I have a small Fig tree (Ficus carica) which produces lovely fruit,  green on the outside and pink in the middle.

The birds love them and last year I didn’t manage to  get any fruit. I had used bags to cover individual  fruit which didn’t stop the birds at all. One morning I watched two crows working together to untie a bag over the very last fig, it’s hard not to admire their tenacity!

This year I have put a double layer of bird netting over the tree and today we also put up a “Scare Hawk” as an added defense to deter the birds.

The tree isn’t very large but produces very well and today we managed to pick 6 ripe figs which were delicious. I’m hoping to get enough to make a couple of jars of jam.

We are interested in seeing whether the hawk is successful in keeping birds away from the trees, as even with the netting the birds often still peck at the fruit. If it works we’ll also put them near the other trees as their fruit develops.

I had to pick all of my plums and make jam, while they were still green to avoid both the birds and the Queensland Fruit Fly Bactrocera tryoni. Some of the many challenges of trying to grow fruit and vegetables in the sub tropics.

 

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July in South East Queensland

The weather is cool and dry at the moment, which is a relief after the wet and humid summer.

Yesterday I saw this baby koala in the front paddock, so cute. Koalas  are in serious decline and suffer from the loss of trees, dog attacks and road accidents. The Australian Koala Foundation estimates that there are less than 80,000 koalas left in the wild, possibly as few as 43,000.

We are in a high value area for Koala?s and rarely see them. I hope that the government does something about legislation to protect them as it would be very sad for them to become extinct like so many other native species.

We have also been blessed with  lots of Yellow Tailed Cockatoos  in the past week, they are very majestic birds, which feed on seeds in the eucalypt forest and make nests in the old tree hollows. They are very noisy birds, but not unpleasant.

Sadly they are also declining because of habitat loss. Unfortunately the tree hollows they nest in are usually only found in trees that are at least 50 years old. And with our thirst for paper products lots of our old trees are cut down and made into wood chips.

We also saw a couple of Tawny Frogmouths  a couple of weeks ago. During the day, the Tawny Frogmouth perches on a tree branch, often low down, camouflaged as part of the tree, so often very hard to see.

Winter in SE Queensland is usually dry and this year is no exception. Relying on rainwater for our household and garden use makes us very aware of the climate. That said we had a good stock of water at the beginning of winter so we are able to continue to water the garden, which is flourishing at the moment.  We have been eating zucchinis, spinach, brocolli and cauliflower as well as picking lots of oranges.

At least this time of the year there aren?t too many bugs to fight off. Although I?m sure they will be back when the weather warms up again.

It’s a good time to be in the garden. much easier to work in the cool. I have started my preparation for Spring by dressing all the fruit trees with some composted sheep manure and sugar cane mulch. As well I have taken the opportunity while lots of plants are dormant to move those that are in the wrong places as well as tidying the branches.

It will be a productive year with many of my small fruit trees now established enough to bear fruit and with my new found knowledge in the vegetable garden!

 

 

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