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On pollinator patrol at the patch

 A blue-banded bee spotted in the garden

A blue-banded bee spotted in the garden

A few intrepid bug spotters gathered at the garden this morning to take part in the Wild Pollinator Count.

The Wild Pollinator Count is an opportunity to contribute to wild insect pollinator conservation in Australia. Thousands of native pollinator species contribute to pollination in crops and gardens all around the country. However, relatively little is known about them. This citizen science project aims to help identify all our insect pollinator species, understand their ecology and how they are affected by human activities.

Unfortunately, the overcast day meant that our pollinating pals weren't out in force, but we still managed a few sightings.

The salvias won the 'Best Pollinator Attractors' award. We also found pollinators on the basils and brassicas.

Our final tally for the day was:

  • European honey bees: 11
  • Blue-banded bees: 2
  • Ladybird beetles: 1
  • Hoverflies: 4
  • Wasps: 3
 These little green long-legged flies weren't doing any pollinating, just hanging out on the leaves.

These little green long-legged flies weren't doing any pollinating, just hanging out on the leaves.

Coffee-powered morning in the garden

Sydney summer is in full swing! It's hot, and it's humid, too. Recent rains have filled the rain gauge to the brim. The warm wet weather means the garden is prolific: the zucchini plants are putting on one zucchini after the next, the tamarillo tree is laden with fruit, and the cucumbers are flowering whilst producing plump cucumbers. 

 A beautiful, crunchy cucumber from the communal bed (upper garden wall bed). Yum! 

A beautiful, crunchy cucumber from the communal bed (upper garden wall bed). Yum! 

Weeding is a good job to do now (isn't it always ;-) ?) to help vegies grow. And a feed is important, too. With so much to do yet so few cool(ish) hours of the day we have moved the Sunday working bees forward to the morning, commencing at 9AM.  

J.,  a PermaPatch member has been pulling out weeds since the start this morning. Sweat drops glisten on her forehead and there is  is a big smile on her face "I love this garden!" "Look at these beautiful little flowers" she says pointing to the sage showing off red and white hues "they add so much colour". And they are edible, too, adding a bit of colour when sprinkled over salads. 

This morning we are joined by our very own barista, T. from PermaCulture Sydney North. He is manning the coffee machine and makes sure nobody goes without a coffee to fuel our work efforts. And there is homemade cake, too - what great way to start the day! 

 Come one, come all - morning tea (coffee) at the Community Garden! 

Come one, come all - morning tea (coffee) at the Community Garden! 

We also had bee-keepers inspect our hives. Unfortunately, unwanted beetles have taken over, driving out the bees. The infested boxes needed to be removed. 

This might be a bit of a relief for those of you who need to be careful around bees because of allergic reactions to beestings. Our bee-keeper has some good advice: "Avoid wearing any colourful clothing, or perfume". Basically anything that a bee might mistake as a flower. Also, bees can be attracted by the glistening of eyes, so wearing sunglasses is another good tip to keep bees away. 

Eventually we'd like to get another beehive established because they are so important. And in previous years we were able to treat our members to beautifully cold-filtered honey  straight from the garden. So hopefully we'll soon be able to welcome a new beehive!

 The pawpaw tree (located at the southern border of the lower garden) in full bloom.

The pawpaw tree (located at the southern border of the lower garden) in full bloom.

All in all a beautiful morning in the garden - thanks to all who contributed with coffee and cake, hard work and community spirit. 

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Transformation task force PermaBee

It is not often that a Sunday working bee truly transforms the face of the garden. However, last Sunday's (19th April) working bee achieved exactly that.

The upper garden had always been reminiscent of its past life as a car park; and despite luscious private plots it never quite managed to acquire the same cozy feel of the lower garden. So a few months ago, the plan was hatched to cover the bitumen surface with woodchips.

Woodchips would not just be a cosmetic enhancement. They would also help to keep the upper garden cool(er) in summer and encourage beneficial ground and fungal networks to grow. And, all of the energy that is used sweeping the upper garden's surface clean of leaf litter and bark strips could go into proper gardening activities.

How many woodchips does it take for such an endeavor? MOUNTAINS of woodchips! 

  Colin at the summit of Woodchip Mountain

 Colin at the summit of Woodchip Mountain

And of course, it takes people to move the mountains.  Given the scale of the project, we asked Permaculture Sydney North (PSN) to lend us a helping hand and called a special Permabee working bee. This meant instead of our usual afternoon shift of a couple of hours, we started early to make the most of the day.

And things progressed really well! By the time we gathered for late morning tea the mountains had already been eroded to mere speed bumps.

                     Time for morning team - catching up with old friends and making new ones.

                    Time for morning team - catching up with old friends and making new ones.

Not that there we were short of tasks...There is always something to do in the garden. A whole range of activities had been planned and prioritised for the day:

  Our impressive project schedule for the day. After number 9 we ran out of white space on the board...

Our impressive project schedule for the day. After number 9 we ran out of white space on the board...

Excitingly, about 400 new seedlings had arrived just in time for the working bee. We received a mix of little lettuces, cabbages, carrots, coriander and several others. So not only would we be able to refill the lettuce pots of the acquaponics, the common beds had been weeded and topped up with compost the Sunday prior - perfectly prepared to provide for the little seedlings. 

Tasks like these cannot be tackled on morning tea alone. Since the early morning we had fired up the pizza oven and served pizzas for lunch. 

We're certainly getting the hang of how to get the pizza oven going, and even used the residual heat for roasting corn cobs and a slow-cooked pork roast. 

Activities continued well into the afternoon, until the wind picked up and temperatures dropped announcing a change in weather. Time to clean up and pack the tools away!  

It had been a wonderful day, - very productive in terms of all the tasks we accomplished. But most importantly, it was really fulfilling to work alongside like-minded people and have a great time turning our garden into an even homelier place. Thank you to everyone involved! 

Big win for community garden at election day fundraiser

It was still dark when the first group of volunteers arrived to set up the barbecue and cake stall for the election day fundraiser at the Chatswood Uniting Church polling station. 

With the smell of sizzling beacon and onions filling their crisp morning air, it didn't take long for the first voters to order a sausage, bacon and egg sandwich, or get a sweet breakfast treat.

Many members and friends of the garden had baked the night before: Our cake stall boasted banana bread and pecan nut loaves in different sizes, date and walnut rolls, gingerbread, macadamia chocolate cookies, jam drops, heart-shaped coconut cakes, traditional fruit and zesty lemon cakes, scones with jam and cream, and many many beautifully decorated cupcakes. Not to forget the chilli jam and tomato relishes - our stall spelled "pure temptation".

                                                           Kim's colourful democracy cupcakes

                                                          Kim's colourful democracy cupcakes

Compared to previous years, fewer voters were registered at the polling station, and we could certainly tell the difference. Yet many more stopped at our stalls, giving us the opportunity to talk to them about the garden.

So all the hard work and many hours manning the stalls and sizzling sausages paid off: We managed to raise $960 for the community garden on the day!  This is massive! It's also a nice increase compared to last year.

A big thank you to everybody involved, whether it was baking, barbecuing, buying, or organising  - your help is much appreciated and will make a real difference to the garden. The biggest thank you goes to the master organiser, mobiliser, and motivator of the day, the lovely Kim. She made sure it all came together - without her work the fundraiser would not have happened - and it would not have been as much fun! Thank you, Kim!

Election Day Fundraiser - The Legend Of The Sausage

It's that time again, you can't open a newspaper or switch on a TV or even answer your phone without somebody talking in a deep, eery voice about the doom each opposing party is promising... Most of us have become quite cynical about our civic duty and the democracy we live in... There is however one shining light in the darkness of our current political landscape... And that is the ubiquitous election day sausage sizzle and cake sale...!! YAY!!!!

 Happiness is a warm sausage... 

Happiness is a warm sausage... 

 Vote 1 for the cupcake party!

Vote 1 for the cupcake party!

One of our members, Kerry Awia Markey, took these great photos at the 2013 Federal Election fundraiser that we did... Doesn't everything look so delicious? Election day sausage sizzles and cake stall are one of PermaPatch's biggest fundraising opportunities and is a fun day for everyone! There's lots of ways to get involved... bake a cake, a loaf, some cookies or cupcakes, help prep on the Friday from 3:30pm - 6:30pm or help on election day, manning the cake stall or bbq. Come for just an hour or stay all day... every bit of help counts!!

Email us at permapatch@permapatch.org.au to let us know how you can help!

First Aid Kit: A User's Guide.

When you are working in the garden there is so much that can go wrong, you are exposed to pointy, sharp things, scratchy, splintery things, things that can be tripped over, there are things that can bite you or sting you, and of course the ever hotter sun which will burn you. Of course we all try to be sensible… we wear gloves and long sleeves, long socks, trousers and most importantly a hat, but sometimes these things are unavoidable. 

Taking most of these precautions, I myself fell victim to injury in the garden this last Monday. While pulling out weeds from the orchard for the chickens, I managed to give myself the worst possible grass cut! Ouch! Now of course, I should have been wearing gloves, but you know what it's like… you see a task that needs doing and you jump in and start doing it, without a second thought for health or safety… "It's a few harmless weeds…" to your own detriment.

Thank goodness we had a first aid kit in the shed, readily stocked with bandaids (we even have Simpsons bandaids in case the kids end up with a grazed knee!).

When you walk into the shed the first aid kit is straight in front of you in a white cupboard with the internationally recognised red cross symbol and 'FIRST AID' written across it. Next time you are at the garden, pop into the shed and have a look at it, become aware of where it is and what it contains. It is stocked with a regular first aid kit, bandages, antiseptic, scissors, etc but also has some things to help prevent malaise, such as sunscreen and for those that need it topical insect repellent (take it easy with that stuff - since we have the bees living just upstairs!).

So have fun in the garden, but always be safe and know what to do in case of an injury!

Pizz'stralia Day

On Sunday 25th of January, we once again took refuge in the garden to get away from the flag waving masses at our Pizz'stralia Day Pizza Feast. What a lovely way to spend this patriotic weekend, amongst our lush garden and and even lusher gardeners! Lots of people came along and brought all sorts of delicious ingredients with them including our ex-president Jonno, who brought some gorgeous fresh dough... 

There were sumptuous salads from the garden and pizzas smothered in forests of basil and tomatoes from the garden.

Happy Pizz'stralia Day!

This was our first big event for the year and it was delicious! The pizza oven is amazing and a great addition to the garden community.

Happy New Year - A Word From Our VP

HI all and happy New Year to you!

Just a quick update re. the garden.

1. For those of you who pop in to the garden now and then note that we've planted quite a lot of new seedlings  - two sections of the largest communal bed and 1 small section in one of the smaller horseshoe shaped beds. If you happen to be there and the seedlings look like they are lacking water please feel free to give them some - just until they are established by which time the new watering roster folk will be easily able to take care of things.

2. Hydroponics system - we had a power outage for most of Sunday and the other day one of the pumps was disconnected so lucky it wasn't hot and sunny - if you happen to see the plants on this new hydroponics system (currently strawbs and lettuce) wilting in  a big way - can you let me know and I'll try to investigate.

3. We've had a big increase in the chook flock with 5 new ones (thanks to Kim for arranging) - they are currently fenced off from the existing chooks but should be getting introduced soon.

4. Slight change in the designation of the three open compost heaps - I'll have signs up tomorrow to indicate state of affairs.

5.Harvesting - we'll be hoping to harvest more than has been done in the past and will be leaving on one of the tables whatever isn't claimed by the folk who attended and helped with the Sunday work bees (good incentive to come and work on Sundays - get the best choice of the goodies!)

6. We have a big new whiteboard on the shed wall and will be trying to use this plus other notice boards to better convey info re. happenings and status of things in the garden - so do have a look each time you go in!This will hopefully work in conjunction with our existing excellent  website  to provide info as to what is happening and what is planned.

Think that's all 
Hope to see you in the garden (don't forget Sundays 2pm onwards for work bees)

cheers

Colin Maltman

Vice President

Wood-Fired Pizza Oven Progress Report

Who doesn't like pizza? When I eat pizza, I feel as though the chaos of the universe all falls into place; it finally all makes sense, everything is at peace.

It has to be good pizza, ...though everyone has a different idea of what this constitutes. A victim of personal subjectivity, pizza can be a fraught territory, like talking about religion or politics. From the scandalous, yet tasty, Hawaiian, to the purist and minimalist Margherita, even the shape of the pizza can cause conflict among otherwise peace-loving people. 

Cheesy, tomatoey, garlicky, basil-y. Hot and crispy, paper thin, the point of the slice yielding and drooping slightly with lush delicate ripeness. That's how I like mine! Others disagree.

The one thing we CAN all agree on however is that pizza is awesome. 

It's taking shape and is almost finished, our long awaiting dream Wood Fired Pizza and Bread Oven.

Yesterday Andrew and Gary completed the arch and flue for the oven and the final bit of building is this week, when they install the insulating silicone based fire blanket, and render the dome to a fine finish.  The area around the oven will be tiled to provide a clean, washable and smart work surface and then early next week will see a first firing of the oven to put the final cure to the beast.

Soon to follow, an opening event to Christen the Oven. Get your finest pizza dough and sourdough’s underway, there will be a taste test competition for best base, sauciest toppings and best overall pizza chef. Game on!!

Pizza Oven - The Dream Becomes Reality!

Its almost here, our long awaiting dream Wood Fired Pizza and Bread Oven .

Today was a significant step forward with the final delivery of the dome for the Calabrese Courtyard Oven. Now the 3D Jigsaw and build by numbers process has commenced. Go to the website to see how the oven can be crafted to suit .  

http://www.sydneyfirebricks.net.au/pizzaovenkits.html

Today saw the delivery of the dome which weighs 240kg or so, and location in position on top of the firebricks and insulation board

This lift and location could not have happened by myself and Colin, Jo and Roman, the regular BOB the builders made herculean efforts to lift 1m high into place.

Don’t just wait though, in the next few days we will need to decorate the oven in our unique PermaPatch Style.

Gary

 Pizzalicicious!

Pizzalicicious!