Buzzies and pocket jam

Hi All,

I have been a bit slack with the horticultural stuff lately and on our early morning walk with the dogs we decided to share a bit of local bush tucker and native flora with you. It’s not just Christmas at this time of year for us, it’s an amazing time for the local wildlife. Summer has brought a flush of flowers and fruit. Our buddleias are covered in butterflies and Earl is entranced with them. They fly around his head and he sits there watching them in amazement (butterflies that is…not buddleias). Earl hasn’t ever seen a butterfly before and it’s a delight to watch this lanky muscle bound year old pup enthralled by a butterfly zooming past. Exocarpos cupressiformis, commonly known as the native cherry, is one of the bush fruit that can be eaten by humans as well as birds. Take a look at the following website to see a bit more about it…

In collecting and looking at this fruit it bears an amazing resemblance to the fruit of the podocarpus family. I wonder why this tree has been isolated from the genus? Take a look at my reference site (Wikipedia :o) to find out more about this amazing family. You will see the close resemblance between the fruits. I use Wikipedia for plant information because it is unfailingly posted by experts in the field and there is no value in manipulating plant data so it’s pretty reliable.

I collected some of the fruit as well as some of the local native currant shrub. Otherwise known as Coprosma quadrifida on our walk. When I say that “I” collected it, Steve needs some credit here as wherever I was balancing precariously on the semi eroded edge of the road with a steep drop to the river below, he most gallantly reached out and got the fruit for me. This is a staple of many small birds on the Eastern Coast of Australia and appears to be hardy and spread easily by bird droppings. It is apparently a good substitute for cotoneaster berries that the birds feed on and deposit the seed far and wide. Serendipity farm is covered in cotoneaster thanks to a massive great tree that Steve and I are going to remove in the New Year. We also have a large population of Coprosma quadrifida and the fruit is an amazing clear jewel red when there is any left on the shrub to photograph that is. Here is my collection of native fruit, gathered this morning on our walk. I was most surprised to get it all back intact as it was in my pants pocket and we spent some of our walk wandering through some remanent bushland where the dogs were very excited about wallabies and birds zooming through the undergrowth so the chances of having my fruit turned into pocket jam were about 99%. I guess you were meant to see this fruit today.

Don’t they look interesting? You can see how the seed is on the bottom of the fruit rather than inside which is why they are called “endocarpus” because the seed is external. You can’t really see the native currants in this shot so I had to take another one…

You can see the tiny round fruits of the native currants better in this photo. All of this native fruit was promptly scoffed by Bernard and Manny our Java finches which goes to show how we have so many of these trees and shrubs on our property and in the surrounding district… they taste good!

After I took this photo, I peeled the seed from the base and fed it to our Javanese finches, Bernard and Manny. May as well share the love around :o). They loved it and it all got eaten with no ill effects. Steve ended up covered in buzzies from our walk (that will teach him for wearing his holey old trackies on our walk!). Buzzies are actually a native groundcover Acaena novae-zelandiae but are swine’s because they have a large round seed head that clings like Velcro to clothing (apart from smooth cotton/jeans etc.) and dogs. The seed head then bursts open and the inner seeds all cling tenaciously to your socks, pants, dog, and cat, ANYTHING that they can cling to…like this…

I totally apologise for this. My son Stewart sent this link to us. I think he is working on becoming some sort of evil genius who is going to take over the world. This song is one of his templates for mind control. It works…we have had this song stuck in our heads for 2 days so far and it shows no signs of leaving. It just shows how much of a megalomaniac he is by testing his mind control techniques on his nearest and dearest family first…Keep it up Stewart; you might just get to be bigger than Mussolini or Napoléon (or even Attila the Hun) yet!

That’s a reasonable shot of some Coprosma quadrifida but ours (Tasmanian) is MUCH nicer :o)

It is very interesting that these tiny fruits look a whole lot like Cashews who have a larger fruit but a similar seed arrangement. Unlike the native cherry, Cashews are members of the Anacardiaceae family of which some very interesting plants belong, including Sumac, Pistachio nuts (a member of the sumac family) and mangoes. You would think, by looking at them, that they would be listed under Podocarpus (using your new found Podocarpus genius from that Wikipedia site that is…) but apparently there is something different about them and they have been shifted off to their own genus. This happens a lot in the plant confraternity. Botanists have pretty much nothing to do and no reason to be allowed to remain employed so they spend most of their time reclassifying plants from one family to another to keep themselves in a job. You can see more at the link below…

And here is another link specifically about cashews, one of my favourite nuts and worthy of inclusion on this blog…

I find it incredible that Tasmanian endemic plants are so very closely related to those of Chile and New Zealand which were once joined to Tasmania in the massive landform of Gondwanaland like a puzzle. This small fruit being somewhat like a cashew is most probably no coincidence and natural selection can certainly do a fair bit for changing a species Here’s another interesting site with some of our native Tasmanian bush tucker listed. I wouldn’t want to have to survive on Australian bush tucker, but the local birds seem to revel in the bountiful harvest around about now.

We can’t forget Tasmanian native pepper berries (Tasmannia lanceolata). I don’t know if any of you have tasted them bit if you should be so stupid as to grab a handful and pop them into your mouth you will most certainly remember the experience for many years to come and the leaves are even hotter. They are a cross between horseradish, pepper and chilli. A most unusual taste and one that I have NO idea why someone decided to propagate them and sell them as to me, they taste reminiscent of flaming turpentine! We have a small specimen because they are lovely shrubs and I might even put in a few of them but I doubt that I will be partaking of the peppery spice of the fruit or leaves any day soon. This is another example of something Tasmanian being closely related to something Chilean. Its full botanical name is Tasmannia lanceolata syn. Drimys lanceolata and Drimys winteri is a Chilean tree that looks incredibly similar to Tasmannia lanceolata. I like collecting Chilean species because I know that although exotic, they should grow happily in our local conditions because Chile is on the same meridian as Tasmania and has similar temperate conditions as well as having very similar growing conditions.

Here’s some information about the Native Pepper berry

And here is some further information about Drimys winteri so that you can see just how similar they both are and should you be interested, you can read a bit about this lovely tree that I am in the process of trying to get hold of for our garden. I tried to grow some from local seed but nothing germinated. That isn’t going to stop me trying though.

Is that enough horticulture for you all today? Good, because I want to share what we have been doing in the lower teatree garden. It’s kind of anti-horticulture in fact :o). We have been cutting down and clearing out all of the aging, mostly dead hakea and other trees that lined the driveway. We wanted to open it up a bit and give the surviving trees more light. We have certainly opened it up more and now that we have cut down the trees, we have to deal with what to do with them until they dry out and can be harvested for their log wood and the rest burned on a cold autumn day. We watched the pile of debris growing exponentially with amazement and dread. It is one thing to clean out the area and another thing to deal with the mounting piles of debris that results. We decided to heap it up in a large pile to give some habitat to some native wildlife for a while. I know it is only temporary, but when we come to deal with this massive pile the bears will just have to move out! Steve logged, I lugged. We both have our chainsaw licenses that we gained from our horticulture cert. 3 course but I have no intentions of ever using my license and Steve loves to use the chainsaw so that relegates me to lugging. I decided that just because we had to pile up our debris in a specific area, didn’t mean that we had to make it ugly. We have been standing the branches up in an effort to make the area look tidier and the result looks like we are storing this wood for some sort of pagan ceremony akin to the “Day of Summer isle” in the Wicker Man. Bag’s I don’t have to be Edward Woodward’s character! If we really wanted to mess with the Auld Kirk church goers and stop them from looking over the fence on Sundays, we could wait till their Christmas ceremony and dance about naked around the heap singing Celtic songs, but to be honest we can’t be bothered. Steve is too busy singing that baby monkey song to learn a new song…

The dun-ya-dough crow was going ballistic. The teatree area of the garden was dad’s most favourite spot and also his most ardent area for leaving completely alone. I know that one of his dogs was buried in this area and that he stridently refused to share any of the long tall teatrees with any of his friends no matter how useful long thin pest resistant timber was. Now that we are thinning it out a bit and dealing with the forget-me-not carpet and periwinkle mass coverage this area is becoming a really lovely space to wander through with its tall thin trees and dappled light. We still have some logs to pick up and some wood to move. In autumn we are going to start dealing with that massive great pile of debris and will harvest the larger logs for the fire and the smaller stuff will be used to fuel many bonfires where we can roast marshmallows, bake spuds in alfoil and sit around with a beer warming our hands and simply being glad to be alive. I can see why dad and his partner gave up bothering to tame this property. It takes dedication and passion to want to machete back the wilderness and keep a garden in prime condition. Anyone who gardens knows that the act of gardening is the desire to hold back nature in its ever relentless need to reach equilibrium. What most of us find lovely in a garden, nature finds depleted and abhorrent. Nature is striving to build understories, to cover the ground, to retain soil moisture and to get a mini ecosystem underway to provide the soil with everything that it needs to create a self-reliant microclimate.  To us, that’s a bloody awful mess! Nature knows what it’s doing, we know what we like and never the twain shall meet unless we start to listen to what nature is telling us and manipulate it to our advantage. What grows endemically in your area? Can you use it in your garden to your advantage? If not, what CAN you use to your advantage so long as it will grow in your conditions. Do a bit of research. Find out what you are after and see if you can’t mesh it in with other plants to minimise your garden slog and use nature’s natural desire to cover everything with greenery to your advantage. That is why we want to create a food forest here. It will include Endocarps, native currants, Tasmanian pepper berries and many exotic species that will harmonise together and create a custom made microclimate here on Serendipity Farm. One day, we are hoping that nature will work with us to minimise our efforts. We are quintessentially lazy and would rather work smarter than harder to be honest. That requires us to be very observant and clever with our choice of plants, our design and our initial planning and implementation so that we arrive at a point where both nature and human interloper can stand back and say “yeh, not a bad job…lets go share a beer”.


9 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Mum
    Dec 19, 2011 @ 09:20:15

    I hope there are still some of those wild berries when I come love, they look interesting. A pecan tree would be a bit nice to have in the garden too-yum ! One thing, all the wild life know & eat this wild fruit, therefore, might leave your fruit trees alone in preference eh? That is one hell of a heap of dead wood there too, By the cooler autumn months, that will go up beatutifully. Make sure you make a lot of noise, so any animal can get out fast , before you throw a match in there. The tea tree glade sounds lovely Pen. I shall be there in THREE DAYS !!Last night I dreamt I was on my way, & you were living up a very steep track on top of a hill. I had come for lunch, from one side of Australia to the other, & seeing who was fetching me back after an hour!


  2. Roz Takes
    Dec 19, 2011 @ 09:26:44

    Hi Fran and Steve
    I have thoroughly enjoyed all your stories and look forward everyday to your new tome. One thing you have never mentioned……snakes and lizards.I would have thought it would be a haven for them where you are, so close to the river and with all the blackberries and other undergrowth. Maybe Tasmania is too cold!
    Have a wonderful Christmas and New Year. Give my love to Mum and the girls.


    • narf77
      Dec 19, 2011 @ 10:00:38

      Hi Roz, good to see you are joining us for a cuppa and a natter each day down on Serendipity Farm :o). We have a resident snake (Mr. Snake) that I did mention in a previous post (somewhere!) that dad conveniently ‘forgot’ to tell us about. When we first saw him we almost had a heart attack and got the snake man in to catch him (which he didn’t…and we paid $40 for Mr. Snake to have a bit of a laugh at our expense…). We now keep watch for him and make sure that we keep the undergrowth near the rear of the house as clear as possible so that we don’t get any nasty surprises. Our older dog Bezial found him last year. Bezial is a bit of a voyeur and was just sitting there watching something most intently last January and we went out to see what he was up to and saw a tail disappearing in between our pot plants…they are now outside the immediate house area! We blocked off the drain so he couldn’t get in there (where he was living last year) and are just going to have to watch out. We have lots of small lizards all over the place. They are too quick to get photos of and we have 1 resident blue tongue that I tried to whipper snip last year. I took him 2 sliced bananas to make up for it…

      I will give your felicitations to mum and the girls and love that we can all keep in touch via the blog. I don’t plan on stopping any day soon as I have years of ‘stuff’ backed up like a clogged drain, just waiting to spill out onto each post. It’s been most cathartic to share and is a great stress difuser at the same time. Merry Christmas to you all over there and we can all share the New Year together :o)


  3. Kym
    Dec 19, 2011 @ 11:33:23

    Hi Frannie,
    Can you not use some of your pile to thatch a nice little gazebo? My friend from Morowa, who lived on a farm, would keep a hole digger pole(not the techo name perhaps lol), at her back door as she said it was the best thing for killing snakes. She lives in Albany now, big change in the weather for them! We are having the best weather here at the moment. Maybe your mum will bring some with her…


    • narf77
      Dec 19, 2011 @ 14:18:47

      We just had a torential downpour overnight and hopefully that isn’t repeated on Christmas day or we will be huddled around the kitchen table and Steve will be bbq’ing our lunch with an umbrella. It’s starting to fine up now so hopefully it will be nice for Christmas day :o) I am glad its nice in Perth at the moment. Its apparently quite wet over most of Australia with everyone getting a lot more rainfall than they usually get but down here it’s weather as usual. How are you going getting everything sorted out ready for Christmas? We are shuffling things about the house, thinking about doing things and really doing bugger all (the story of our lives) :o) Have a great week. Did you get that Christmas tree put up by your son and his girlfriend?


  4. Kym
    Dec 19, 2011 @ 19:59:57

    Well the tree did get put up, but was decorated in stages. First it sat there all bare for about three days, then my son decided to put the tinsel on it. Looked a lot more festive but not quite finished. I mentioned to him that he might want to put the decorations on it too, and so he and his girlfriend did just that. Took about a week from go to woe but it is now resplended with decorations and lights. I have most of the presents sorted, just a few more to do, mostly gift cards, then the usual cleaning and sorting. I will keep my fingers crossed for nice weather for you and me both 🙂


    • narf77
      Dec 20, 2011 @ 11:25:13

      You don’t happen to want a little kitten do you? We have 4! 3 ferals we just discovered and 1 little dumped kitten (we just took him to the R.S.P.C.A. poor little half starved thing). Ok, back to baking bread, spongecakes and meringues!


  5. Anthropogen
    Dec 22, 2011 @ 00:56:10

    Nice to read your blog posts and very interesting to see some of your native bushfruits. Is your climate sort of temperate / subtropical? What species of cultivated fruits and nuts grow in the region?


    • narf77
      Dec 22, 2011 @ 07:39:56

      Hi, lovely to see you dropping in to Serendipity Farm :o). Northern Tasmania has a temperate climate and a lot of food crops are grown here especially potatoes, onions and brassicas. Tasmania is slowly changing from a state that previously relied on forestry for its weath to more sustainable ways of generating income and there are some interesting crops being touted as perfect for this state. Hazelnuts love it here, cherries and other stone fruits are an important crop in our local area and apples are what Tasmania is colloquially known for “The Apple Isle”. Grapes (especially the Pinot variety) are widely grown here and in my tiny little local area alone there are 7 vineyards. We get more rainfall here than mainland Australia which makes Tasmania a great place to live as well as a great place to grow an edible food forest. Walnuts are also grown extensively and there is a nuttery just around the corner from here owned by a local activist. Pretty much anything that grows in the U.K., Most of Europe, the North West and North East of America, Eastern Asia and especially Sourthern Chile (which Tasmania was once joined to when the world was a single entity “Gondwana” along with New Zealand) which is my particular area of interest.

      I am not originally from this state and grew up in Western Australia, the largest most Western state of Australia and had never seen snow until I moved here and I have jumped into deciduous species with both feet and have been really enjoying learning about them. Steve and I have just completed our Diploma in horticulture and are keen to change this property into an edible food forest using the principals of the native taswegian Bill Mollison of Permaculture fame, but I have been researching and discovered agroforestry and it is my new passion. I am following your blog keenly because of the wealth of information that you have made available. I am a keen magpie when it comes to collecting information and instantly recognised your site as being one of my “golden” sites where I return constantly to learn and collect information for my needs. Thankyou so much for you blog and I will be a constant reader for as long as you choose to post. I doubt that I will ever get to many of the amazing places that you visit, but through your blog and your eyes, we get to see these fantastic places on a horticultural basis as well as your amazing photography. Thank you so very much for your fantastic blog and your amazing posts. See you in the ether soon,
      Fran :o)


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: