Showing posts with label wilderness. Show all posts
Showing posts with label wilderness. Show all posts

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Environmental Weeding

by Linda from The Witches Kitchen

This post is full of contradictions.

I've spent my Easter Saturday holiday getting very scratched and itchy, bitten by ticks and leeches, tired and sore, clearing lantana just so we could get to the worse weed - Madeira vine (Anredera cordifolia).

I had a wonderful morning doing it in a group with friends, really satisfying to see the difference we made in one session (with another one tomorrow).

I wish I didn't have to do it.

One of the best and most satisfying things I have done in my life was a four year riparian restoration project, where we planted a forest. For years I spent most Saturday and some Tuesdays clearing lantana, moth vine, crofton weed and cockspur by hand from several kilometres of creek bank, replanting with sandpaper figs and Brown pine, Quandongs and Bunyas, Celery wood and native Quince, food for parrots and possums and gliders and bush turkeys.

I wish they'd all go and live there and leave my garden alone!

After only a decade, it is a forest. The creek flows through it in dappled shade,  its banks held by roots, its water clear and drinkable, a breeding ground for fish and turtles and yabbies.  We have even seen a platypus there. If it was still degraded, maybe I'd be too busy to deal with Madeira vine right now. If it was a smaller area, maybe we would have noticed the Madeira vine sooner.

Madeira vine is a native of South America, introduced as an ornamental and now a serious environmental weed. Now I'm not a knee jerk weeder. Many weeds are opportunistic plants that occupy a vacant niche caused by disturbance, and disappear as they encounter competition from more permanent species.  Often they are the symptom, not the cause of a degraded ecosystem.  But there are some, and Madeira is amongst them, that don't play nice. Madeira will smother rainforest trees. It will take over whole areas in just a few years. It will spread downstream carried by the water to take over new areas.

And it is impossible to eradicate by hand once it has got a go on.  Every time you disturb the vine, it drops trillions of little bulbils, each of which will take root.  When you try to pull it up, it breaks leaving the roots to regrow and the vine impossible to disentangle from the host tree, dropping its trillions of little bulbils.  It will resprout from a leaf dropped on the ground. And the bulbils will survive up to five years.
So I spent my Easter Saturday clearing lantana, just so we could get at the Madeira vine amongst it. Had a lovely day. Discovered the scale of the infestation is horrible. Believe that generally, when you use poisons, you only make the problem worse.  Wonder how on earth Madeira can be controlled otherwise.

It isn't simple, this simple, green, frugal life.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Guava Jelly

Posted by Bel
from Spiral Garden

It's the time of year when there's not really anything fruiting in the orchard.  We do have bananas, but they all ripen at once so it's a mad rush to eat, dry and freeze the whole bunch.

With delight, my children announced that the Strawberry Guavas are ripe, all along the edge of the rainforest on our block.  These trees are an invasive species, they just pop up where the birds plant them...  As a wild fruit, I love them - they're much bigger than a berry or lillypilly - and the tree is of small size with no spikes or other deterrents.  Some say the fruit are sour, but we find them sweet, soft and abundant - great for eating fresh, juicing or preserving...


Today I made guava jelly.  (Jelly as in strained jam.)  With guavas, we make jelly instead of jam because the many small seeds are very hard.  Sometimes I use yellow guavas (they are pink on the inside), but these aren't ripe until Autumn, nor as prolific.  I decided to type out the recipe, for beginners...  This recipe can be adapted to any amount of guavas (or other, similar fruit).

Cut up guava fruit (remove stalks and any blemished bits)
Water (or enough to cover fruit in your heavy-based pan)
citric acid

Boil cut up guavas in water (today I used 7 cups of fruit to 7 cups of water).  Mash gently when they go soft.  The colour will come out of the fruit, into the water.  Simmer until fruit is quite pale and disintegrated (approx 20 mins).  Cooking guavas gives off a delightful, spicy aroma!  Strain through a fine sieve into a jug to measure the liquid you strain off (I got 4 cups).  Rinse your pan and add this liquid back to the pan.  Rinse and dry your jug and add 2:3 sugar to juice (so I used 3 cups organic raw sugar).  Simmer on low to medium heat until sugar is dissolved, sotrring often.  Add 1/2 tsp citric acid to each cup of liquid you had from the guavas (I used 2 tsp total).  Stir until dissolved.  Keep simmering until the jelly reaches setting point. Stir occasionally, checking that it's not sticking or burning.  While it's cooking I sterilise some jars, write some labels and clean up my mess!  To test when it's set, I put a spoon into the fridge and dip it into the jelly after around 15 minutes, if it sets a bit on the spoon - it's thicker than syrup and a little will set on the spoon as it cools. 

Turn off the heat and pour the jelly into the sterilised jars (today I filled 4 jars).  If there's any scum or bits of fruit in the jelly, scoop that off or pour it through the fine sieve again, through a funnel, into your jars.  Seal immediately with sterlised lids.  Sit on the bench to cool, trying to resist the urge to tip the jars to check for setting!  The next day, these will be cool and set.  Ensure the outside of each jar is squeaky clean and label and date each jar.  This jelly keeps for many months in a cool, dark pantry.  It's nice spread on toast, or served with cheese, or even poultry.

This method of making jelly is suitable for many fruits - especially those with seeds or skins that aren't suitable for jam.  You can experiment with adding a few whole cloves or other spices during the initial boiling stage.

Next, I think I'll try making herb jelly...

What about you?  Have you made preserves lately?

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Fencing in the Wild

by Linda from The Witches Kitchen

I've ticked off one of my New Year's Resolutions. We've just come home from a week in wild weather at Point Lookout on North Stradbroke Island - one of the most beautiful wild places on earth. I went swimming in the surf every day, collected seaweed for my seaweed brew, and walked around North Gorge every morning.

North Gorge walk at Point Lookout is spectacular. I never ever walk it without seeing wildlife - pods of dolphins surfing in on waves, sea turtles, manta rays, humpbacks in whale season. When we were kids the walk was a goat track round the rocks, a narrow unfenced track with sheer drop-offs 40 metres down to ocean so blue you can see turtles swimming metres underwater.

I vividly remember going round the gorge once as a child - I must have been about nine or ten - in wild weather. Lashing rain, huge waves crashing against the rocks sending spray up even to the 40 metre height of the headland, sea turquoise mixed with gunmetal, the gorge full of mermaid foam.

Gradually, over the years, the walk has been tamed, first with steps in the rock, then fencing along parts, then broadwalks. This time, for the first time, most of the way is broadwalk. It is a beautifully built broadwalk, and I can see the point. I have walked it with my kids with my heart in my mouth. I have feared to take other people's kids, especially in wild weather. But there is a part of me that mourns the taming.

We humans have an appetite for thrill. On the way there we passed Dreamworld themepark at the Gold Coast,  advertising "The Tower of Terror" where "riders soar 100m into the atmosphere dangling for several seconds of stomach-churning weightlessness at its peak before plummeting back to earth". Dreamworld says the Tower of Terror mark 1 had over 8 million "panicked passengers."

It's an odd idea. A hugely expensive, constructed mechanism designed to create the thrill of fear, the illusion of danger without real danger. Artificial. Unreal. A lie.

I don't think that kind of exploitation of the taste for terror is healthy, but I do think there is something valuable that is lost - maybe necessarily, but sadly - in the broadwalk around North Gorge. That walk taught me, as a child, some valuable lessons, like some risks are not make-believe but permanent. Wild nature is spectacularly beautiful and can take you to profound places, but it doesn't take care of you.  I can do things that are risky and keep myself safe.  Fear is not a reason to stop, or a reason to go, but a reason to take care.

North Gorge offered the opportunity to look at real danger, to experience the thrill, but to have total control over the risk. Fishermen have been washed off the lower rocks, but I can't find a record of anyone actually slipping off the track. It's a lot more relaxing and meditative a walk these days, and still spectacularly beautiful. But thrill that is both real and confrontable is rare, and it's a bit sad to lose it.