Putting the AGRO in Agroforestry

Hi All,

Has anyone else noticed that Agro comes first in the word Agroforestry? That is NO coincidence folks! As a very wise sage (one might think equal to heaven…) once said “Before you can have a cookie you have to lift the lid…” much like the delicious reward of that cookie (white chocolate and macadamia you say?!), developing a smallholding food forest comes with a huge degree of Agro before you get the reward of that forest of food. I have been scouring Anthropogen.com to find out as much about agroforestry and edible food forestry as I can. There isn’t a huge amount out there about food forests because to be honest folks…the people doing it are too busy bums up in the air planting, tending and planning to be sharing information with interested bystanders. I have never been one to jump in without a plan and with the dubious honour of being horticulturalists (AND prospective landscape designers…) we have to be seen to know something about what we are doing. In past posts people have commented about how lovely it is here. I think I must have been gilding the lily somewhat and only showing you the pretty bits. We have some solid undergrowth and some massively overgrown plants that are tough, mean and angry about having been neglected for 20 years. Some of the blackberries that we have been dealing with should come with health warnings on them as not only are they thorny and hard to remove, but lugging great swathes of them over to the trailer usually results in at least one of us spending the next few days feeling the love.

Here is a photo of Earl that Steve messed about with on his mobile. I quite like it…Steve says it is “Olden Days Earl”… there were more than one of him!!!

Earl…or who we like to call “Mr Big Head” looking decidedly like a shark…but the best bit you can’t see…he had his arm on the arm rest of the car while I was taking his photo basking in the delicious cool air after a long walk…one HAPPY dog 🙂

“Poke…poke…poke…press…poke…can we PLEASE go for a walk?”…

“I don’t CARE if it is the start of winter…DOGS DIE IN HOT CARS!”…

“Wheres the bus?”…

Today (Monday) we decided to tackle path renovation 101. We had discovered a rock bordered path leading into an enormously overgrown English May bush (Spiraea thunbergia) and as most of this week is supposed to be relatively rain free, we decided to get stuck in and see just where that pathway went. As usual we ended up generating an ENORMOUS amount of debris. Some of the English May bush had thin spindly branches that measured in excess of 5 metres. You can’t help but feel a sense of compassion for something that has had to go to those sorts of lengths to survive and that has had the tenacity to keep going. That feeling lasts all of about 10 minutes until you have to start cutting, hacking, lugging and toting and then the air becomes colourfully redolent and plant love flies out the window. We knew that we were going to meet up with some of our arch nemesis Mr Blackberry…but the blackberries that we had to deal with were mostly dead and spindly. Dead blackberries are more dangerous than their live counterparts because apart from splintering into shards of spiky debris, they hurt more when they stick you. Spindly blackberries are also bollocks. It’s hard to see them…they lay on the ground pretending to be “other things” and you generally miss one or two of them resulting in massive plants in a year or so. We did 2 ½ hours in the garden and created 3 full trailer loads of debris and a small clearing in the undergrowth. Steve sometimes gets discouraged by how much work we have to do just to accomplish a small task. He spent time crown lifting trees so that we could liberate other shrubs underneath so that we could get inside the shrub to the blackberries hiding within. I don’t look at the big picture…I just look at that 1 square metre of “stuff” in front of me and lay waste to it…when I have finished I work on the next 1 square metre and eventually there won’t be any more left. It’s a bit like being a parent. None of us would survive the act of raising children to adulthood if we didn’t first master the art of selective deafness.

We reported a set of stone steps as being dangerous to the West Tamar Council and the very next day this sign appeared! The little hominid in the picture is doing exactly what I did when I stepped on the lowest step…

 Isn’t this an awesome picture? I won’t try to make you guess what it is…it is actually a steel girder that has rusted away and weathered and is part of the original Beaconsfield Mining days back in the 1800’s

I love this photo…it gives me the impression of the age of mechanisation rusting out and ceasing but the trees are still there waiting for all the chaos to die down…

I always check out the blogs of people that like my posts. It’s not megalomania, it’s my natural curious (some would say “nosy”…) nature coming into play. I would like to know what sort of people find Serendipity Farm an interesting and indeed worthwhile place to drop by and take a visit…share a first cup of mental tea/coffee in the morning with me before the sun comes up…I am CONSTANTLY amazed by the people that click “like” on some of my posts. Obviously the picture that randomly pops up for the post is going to attract some readers but reading and liking are 2 completely different things. I think that is what keeps me blogging, knowing that I am making a connection with people out there somewhere in the ether and whether our lives have ANYTHING in common or not, it doesn’t matter. Right there inside someone else’s head I made sense on some level. Now THAT is something special. I click “like” because a post predominately affects me, moves me, sometimes enrages me and often enlightens me…my click is my “bravo!” It takes a lot to make me click and even more to comment. Whenever I get a “like” or a comment it validates this blog and my thoughts about life and the world. It gives me some solace that there are people who think like me out there and that I am not the only one who wants to find ways to make life full of colour and depth. The world is full of uncertainty at the moment. I saw on one of Steve’s apocalyptic documentaries where a scientist said “the natural human tendency when disaster happens is for humans to find each other and group together”… he was talking about alien invasion at the time but I think that whenever times get tough, that’s when we seem to find the best and worst in people. I would hesitate to add that I personally think that without hard times we never really understand how very lucky we are to be living where we are and being who we are. We might all be totally different people but we share a common goal and to all of the people out there who click “like” on my posts, thank you from the bottom of my heart for seeing something in my words that resonates enough for you to tell me that you like them :o)

We had just walked the dogs and noticed this little gem just waiting to be photographed. As you can see this road leads to the tip/waste transfer station…looks like someone didn’t want to pay the $5 to complete the “waste transfer” to me and lends a whole new meaning to “Your bike is rubbish…” 😉

This is the first stage of the dogs getting a walk in the morning…I head to the bedroom to put on my walking shoes…can you see the happiness in their eyes or is that wary disbelief…I have several more stages to go through before I get out the gate…

Its Wednesday already! On Monday we headed out into the garden after walking the dogs to take a look at what stage we are at in our Serendipitous redevelopment. We realised that it won’t take too many days to clear out the undergrowth in the densely covered area of the garden that no-one has set foot in since most probably 2004 when I came to visit my dad after his partner died. I headed down into that area of the garden and remember there being pathways lined with the rock that predominates the entire area let alone Serendipity Farm. It’s a total PAIN to dig this soil but when you are looking for free foundation materials to make raised garden beds…dry stone walls and retaining walls there are no shortages of these weathered rocks and yet again I am reminded that everything has its uses. I remember wandering down into the garden past a large palm and it was already overgrown with buddleia. I just took 20 minutes to get up, take some photos of the morning sunrise, make Steve his first cup of coffee and take it to him and predominately to try to find out what that buddleia actually is that I was talking about. I can’t find it! It would seem that Buddleia davidii is the go when you are after “Buddleia” in an internet search and as persistent and dogged as I can be about internet searches, even I know when to give up and head to the horticultural books! The Buddleia in question is more of a small tree than a shrub and has the most incredible scented flowers that are not like the classic davidii shaped flower at all. They are clusters of flowers on a branch. I will let you know what they are as soon as I can find them…sorry about that little “aside” there, I have a strong need to know things sometimes and that was one of my “need to know” moments ;). Consider it a brief segue back to my story. I wandered around this garden enchanted by how overgrown and wild it was. Since 2004 the garden went wild. I dare say my dad no longer had anyone telling him to get into the garden so he didn’t. My memories are the only thing that tells me that there are pathways, benches, and most importantly “form” out there in that jungle and unlike Steve who often finds himself overwhelmed and bewildered in this area of the garden, I am able to use my memories to guide me to where the good stuff is.

This is one of Effel Doocark’s babies that are now our constant companions whenever we set foot into the garden. We can be completely alone when Steve starts up his chainsaw and within a few moments we are inundated with small chickens and a very determined Effel. They are getting a bit tamer as we are making the effort to pick most of them up. This little girl is quite tame and finds herself being picked up more than the others. Isn’t she cute?

This was big red rooster…now he is Zac Brannigan rooster…if he keeps threatening the female members of the flock he will be chicken lasagne! “We are watching you sunshine!…”

Here is one of my little  Ceratonia siliqua (Carob/St John’s Bread) that I managed to grow from seed. We are going to plant them out on the property and make good use of their leguminous properties as well as their pods. There are many uses for carob and they are a most useful tree to plant if you have room on your property. Now if I can only get my hands on some Moringa oleifera I will be a happy little sustainable camper!

I wonder why whenever you get stuck into clearing out an area of the garden, the resulting “cleared bit” is a whole lot smaller than the generated debris? It’s a bit like the Tardis of Dr Who legend in that it would appear something wasn’t quite right when measuring up the equation. Our lecturer (poor long suffering Nick…) has had to steel himself to understand that my mind is on a need to know basis and whenever you are trying to introduce new and exciting premises…it needs to be shown why it should be putting all of this effort into thinking about said premise in the first place or it simply isn’t going to happen. Nick told me that whenever you alter one side of an equation, you need to adjust the other side accordingly…I saw it mentally as a see-saw effect and luckily I am the sort of person who’s mind is constantly seeking equilibrium and so this made perfect sense to me. Trigonometry…you are now my friend. Not so sure about Calculus though… when viewing the enormous piles of debris generated and the small space cleared my ordered mind found something askew in that equation. I guess I am thinking in two dimensions rather than the 3 dimensions that are actually present and as the third dimensional portion of Serendipity Farm appears to be stuffed to the back gills with overgrown exponentially increasing plant matter, I can let my mind rest somewhat easily. You can only teach an old dog new tricks that make sense to it. If you want to travel outside that box, you are going to have to do some SERIOUS work Nick ;). I have to say one thing here. I doubt that my lecturer reads this blog so I can say it with impunity. Despite having to teach mature aged students who started off being able to share their horticultural knowledge on a 20c piece, he has risen to the occasion remarkably. He is one of those lecturers who are willing to take the journey with you to learn. Whenever we come across a problem with the software that we are using or a conundrum about our course we know that he will be on the case for a solution as soon as we step outside the building. He is a fellow lover of knowledge and information and despite us being very different people, Nick goes the extra mile to actually teach and for that sir…I thank you from the bottom of my heart :o)

This is a lovely small kalmata olive (Olea europea) tree that is one of many situated right on the fenceline at Marion’s Vinyard. There are many other varieties of olive represented in the trees planted along the side of the road and I collected a selection of them so that we can try to grow some here on Serendipity Farm. I am more than aware that olives grown from seed are a very long term proposition and that taking cuttings is a much quicker way to get yourself an olive tree (as well as an exact copy of the olive that you have isolated) but you know what? I like a challenge! I will be taking cuttings next summer from these trees but for now I will plant the seeds and see what happens.

My little money bag of olives. If I can get some of them to grow, this might be a most fortuitous place to be holding them 😉

This is to show you the different types of olives I have. The vinyard owner most kindly has a sign up telling people the types of olives and which trees are representitive of those types alongside the roadside planting so it will be nice and easy for me to identify my cuttings (so long as I remember to label them accordingly…)

On Tuesday we walked the dogs and when we got back we discussed what we were going to do for the day. Steve has wanted to get his weeping maple collection planted out and so we decided to do that. We set about removing as many rocks from the small garden surrounding the bird baths as we could before Steve set about digging some “root growth zones” (a.k.a. “holes…) to plant them into. He swapped between the shovel and a mattock for the task and we removed lots of large rocks from the area. Maples have shallow root systems that like to spread out a lot with lots of feeder roots. This is because they are understory small trees and needed to adapt to their cramped soil conditions. They also don’t like wet feet and need to be planted out in free draining conditions. Our soil isn’t the most ideal soil in the world consisting of a reasonable percentage of silt but thanks to the 20 years of neglect, all of the leaves that “should” have been raked up have fallen and decomposed in the garden and have added some much needed organic matter to this thin denuded soil. The rocks will actually help us with Steve’s maple garden, they will ensure that the soil doesn’t get compacted no matter how many chickens decide to get stuck in and stomp the area into the ground and we used some of the smaller rocks to form a small cairn around each of his precious babies to stop the advancing hoards of chickens from scratching the living daylights out of their newly planted root systems. Being a gardener means having to weigh up the positives and the negatives and trying to get them to work for you…We planted out some really lovely specimens that will become a truly lovely display in spring through to autumn. At the moment they look like a garden of sticks. Their branching is so fine that you can’t even see most of them from the deck but we know that they are there and we also know that they will be delighted to be planted out and ready to take off at the first signs of spring.

Today we decided to head off and do some more blackberry killing in the side garden. We are on a quest to reduce the blackberries on Serendipity Farm to the minimum. We know that the birds are going to constantly bring them here but we will be watching for any signs once we remove the large outbreaks that have been reproducing exponentially for the last 20 years and will nip them in the bud as soon as we see them. The most tiring thing about removing blackberries is trying to ferret them out from the ingenious places that they manage to grow. We killed one today that had actually grown up an irrigation riser and had to be untied from the riser before we could extract it from its hiding place. Blackberries are clever…who needs a rudimentary brain stem when you are able to grow in so many ways. I do appreciate their delicious sweet fruit but I can head out and harvest it in the bushland and waste ground around Sidmouth and Beaconsfield and we don’t need the double edged sword of blackberry vines on Serendipity Farm. Tonight we are going to watch some episodes of the U.K. sitcom “The Good Life” that we managed to get hold of from a boxed set so we get all of the extra and special episodes. I remember watching this when I was very young and loved every single episode. It was like Fawlty Towers…witty, incredibly funny and so far from Steve and I with our humble “farming” endeavours but so close with the honesty that is so very refreshing in U.K. television programs (well…some of them…). That’s what many people simply don’t get…the best humour is tinged with pain. That’s how you appreciate it to the max and revealing something sad in the middle of the humour makes you remember it and feel it more than you normally would. You “engage” with it more… like in the final Black Adder where they all went over the wall to certain death…in the movie 4 weddings and a funeral with the death of one of the main characters… wherever there is pathos and humour there is more of a connection. Tom and Barbara Good are true pioneering spirits for the sustainability Movement and were years before their time. I truly love this show and am going to have a great time watching every single episode. See you all Saturday and have a really fantastic evening…I most surely will :o)

And by the way Kymmy…what was at the end of that path was a WHOLE LOT MORE HARD WORK…sigh…

10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Roz Takes
    May 30, 2012 @ 19:02:37

    Have you thought about Cherry trees Fran. I think the Tasmanian climate would be just what they need. And such beautiful trees too. I also remember from my schooldays in Armidale NSW a lovely tree that we called chinese apples it thrived in the cold conditions of winter and we would eat the little apples. Shouldn’t be too hard to find it’s botanical name. Now I know you are a Horticulturalist but could your special Buddlia be maybe a Lilac?


    • narf77
      May 31, 2012 @ 06:25:20

      Lol nope on the lilac front Roz…its most definately a Buddleia but it seems to be a really old variety. It smells like hair oil! It has the most amazing perfume that takes your breath away when it is flowering but a very non descript flower that is reminiscent of a Buddleia davidii but in small clumps on a larger scale and it is a very dull mauve bordering on grey touched with a bit of gold. I will find out what it is! I have a black lilac and a white one. Earl tried to put the black one out of its misery by “nipping it in the bud” but it is coming back and will be planted out this autumn in the main garden. I will check up what those apples were and you are absolutely right about Tasmania and cherries. Pretty soon it is going to be known as the “Cherry Isle” as apple orchards are rapidly being replaced by cherries exponentially in Tasmania. You have me curious about those “Chinese Apples” now…I wonder if they were a form of Rowen? Off to find out!


  2. Kym
    May 30, 2012 @ 21:41:05

    Well that lead me up the garden path, so to speak 🙂 It’s going to look lovely in spring and reward you with some pretty colours. I have received my potato peel book already! I will have to wait to read it though because I have already started another book. It will give me something to look forward to once I have finished, oh it’s like winning the lottery having a book in waiting…One day you will be saying, “Blackberries?? What Blackberries?” until then happy 😛 pruning those beasties!


    • narf77
      May 31, 2012 @ 06:31:37

      I WISH about the blackberries…they remain my nemisis :(. Well done on having a book in reserve. I have 3 at the moment but am not overly interested in any of them. I have read books by their authors before and wasn’t all that impressed but as they are on “The list” I am reading them. Mrs Mary Anne Schaffer appears to have a war fetish closely followed by a fetish with the Chinese. Neither of which appeal to me in books and I just want to race through them to get to something a bit more interesting. Her books are war…Chinese…and American cival war (could be a sub of war…) and I am getting very tired of war full stop! I just finished a “side book” (like desert 😉 ) about a journalist who married a crazy organic farmer called “The Dirty Life” and it was ok, but I am missing good books that “I” enjoy…I also hit the problem that when we have been full on in the garden I can’t seem to stay out of bed after about 8.30pm! I used to go to bed at 1am on a regular basis but hard work (and getting up at 6am) seem to be taking their toll of my staying power. I was asleep watching an episode of “The Good Life” last night…its funny how watching that show when you are an adult (and more pertinently, doing what they are doing to a degree) and suddenly you are able to see a whole lot more written into it! Its almost like I am watching an entirely different show! 🙂 Enjoy your reading…I will let you know as soon as I get another GOOD read…until then its “WAR” for me…sigh…


  3. Anthropogen
    May 31, 2012 @ 22:05:34

    Hello. Thanks for the reference. I thought I’d mention, in regards to your C. Siliqua, the trees are apparently very sensitive to maintaining their original north-south orientation. So (if possible) take care to relocate them, when moving or planting, in the same N-S alignment as they have been growing… I’ll post some photos of very old carob in Greece…


    • narf77
      Jun 01, 2012 @ 06:45:19

      Thanks for that Spencer…they have been moved around a fair bit since we grew them…I will make sure to be careful that I replicate their N-S alignment that they are currently in to give them their best chance. I also read recently that the foliage makes excellent animal feed in hard times (much like Moringa oleifera) and just heard on the radio that Tasmania has a warmer than average predicted mean temperature this winter and more rainfall so hopefull all of our newly planted out plants will get a really good chance to assimilate before the growing season ahead.


  4. Anthropogen
    May 31, 2012 @ 22:14:06

    Perhaps you could use one of these for your blackberries…http://www.weedwrench.com/weedwrench/


    • narf77
      Jun 01, 2012 @ 06:51:54

      Looks like an excellent tool. We grub our blackberries and they are not all that hard to get out but the jasmine that my dad decided (in his horticultural wisdom) to plant that has run mental around here for 20 years along with his much prized honesuckle that was almost 40 feet up into some eucalypts before we hacked it down is proving to be a much harder adversary. The roots are very hard to get out and that tool looks like something that would give us a lot more leverage to pull. Thanks for that Spencer…I will have to see if I can hunt one down. I might put that on my next blog post to share with my readers if you don’t mind? Thankyou for your suggestions…all suggestions are welcome with open arms. We are the most enthusiastic terrified amateurs when it comes to throwing ourselves in at the deep end of food forestry. We are full of theory (overflowing in some cases) but practically we are a bit tentative and so that is where sites like yours are so hugely valuable to us. We see plants that would be perfect for our needs and wants and its just a matter of attempting to source them from that point. A little bit harder because Tasmania has a pretty crazy customs system and we have to respect it. Its quite exciting to try to hunt down local sources of what we are after and even more exciting to propagate it ourselves. Again, thank you SOOO much for your advice and help and we would love to see that carob tree in Greece. I will bring my pots inside and show them what they have to look forwards to (albeit minus a bit of the heat 😉 )


  5. christiok
    Jun 01, 2012 @ 04:12:53

    Wonderful post, Fran. We, too, have many “false alarms” when getting ready for our walk, and Ruby the dog just sits them out. She doesn’t get too excited until we’re actually walking down the driveway.

    And thanks for the reminder about “The Good Life.” Keith saw them years ago, but I never have. I’m going to look into them.

    We live in a tiny place called Olalla, which means “place of many berries” in the Salishan (native tribes) language, and it is aptly named. Blackberries, Salal, Huckle, Salmon, Blue, Rasp, Marion, Boysen….you name it. And they almost all have thorns!!

    Have a wonderful week…looking forward to your Saturday post.:)


    • narf77
      Jun 01, 2012 @ 07:14:00

      Cheers Christi…at least you can eat your weeds… most of ours come from South Africa and were designed to poison the natives within 40 feet! We just head out with blinkers on and hack and wheeze our way around the property hoping to find something alive under all that debris. Its AMAZING how much green waste is generated from a little bit of clearing! We have been collecting bottles etc. on our walks over the last fortnight. This is our daily habit. Not only are we being good decent upright citizens but more to the point, we are giving Earl something to eat until we get home today from our lecture. The first time we did it we locked EVERYTHING away as he has nibbled, eaten, bitten and generally scoffed so many things since we imported him as a teeny little 17 week old gangly nose down pup. He was so skinny and rangy and sad but he fell in love with us at once and is the most loving little scamp around…but he grew…and grew… and is STILL growing. Loving little scamps that are 33kilos are terrorists! He would do anything for us but sometimes his desire to have some fun gets in the way of his brain and he pelts around the house so fast he could take out a sumo wrestler on his traverse. I am getting too old for this! Lol!!! Ok, just creamed up one of Steve’s home made sponges ready for morning teat with Maurie (er…our lecturer 😉 ) today. Not tuesday, but close… you will LOVE The Good Life. I am really enjoying it with an adult perspective as I was 11 when I watched it last. A lot of the humour was waiting for me and we are really enjoying watching it. Next stop…the entire boxed set of Futurama! Got to say, if you know futurama…the one with Fry’s dog is the saddest episode and makes me cry every single time! Just hearing Connie Francis sing “If it takes forever I will wait for you” makes me start to snivel! Sigh…over emotional is my curse :). Wish me luck today with Maurie (er…Nick…) 🙂


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