Another Country Diary gumboots
Another Country Diary


Links to images and other pages are in blue. After about a week of diary entries, or when the page gets too image heavy they go to the archive.
3 November -7 November.
There were a few blackened tips on the new leaves of the walnut tree when we came back from WA. It suggested a frost but nothing else seemed affected. Now there are lots of tiny nuts with soft succulent 'antlers'. Now that we know the tree is a walnut, these stages are being noted while in years past the tree was almost removed as straggly and unattractive.     
I've spent a lot of time looking at, and photographing fungi. When I lived in Gippsland and later in Melbourne, the 25 acre block I owned as a weekend retreat had a wet forest patch that had great fungi. (And a lyrebird but that's another tale.)

Like bird watchers, who train themselves to see shapes and small movements that are different from the bush around, fungi watchers can spot a small blotch on a trunk or in leaf mould that says 'look closer here'. This one has been very obvious in the grass near the hazelnuts and it was only a week or so later that I became aware of it's distinct shaggy cap. 

Despite its round shape I think it's a Shaggy Ink cap Coprinus comatus. We've had those in other areas of the garden usually in clusters, but they are more cone like. They're also called Lawyer's wig, and they're supposed to be edible with a pleasant smell. I forgot to smell this one.  The book says that the gills change from white through pink to black and then begin to liquefy lasting 24 hours. They appear late spring, summer and autumn. This one had been there for almost two weeks I reckon, so I'm not sure it's a shaggy. I've never noticed the annulus strips holding the cap on the others, so I'm open to anyone who might help identify it. (A field guide to Fungi of South-eastern Australia. Macdonald & Westerman. Nelson.)

Search engines work in mysterious ways. Because I wrote about my Fowlers Vacola bottling, if you now do a search on Google for that, you'll end up in this Diary archive. I've had a couple of letters from people who read that, and realised that I hadn't put up any links to helpful web info.

----Original Message-----
From: Naomi 
Sent: Monday, 4 November 2002 1:07 PM
To: fred@thinktag.com
Subject: Fowlers Vacola
Bought a Fowlers Vacola kit at a garage sale. Have all the gear just not the know how! Can you help? Naomi.

Naomi, Fowlers have a very slim (and hence overpriced) booklet called "Secrets of Successful Preserving". It costs about $17.00, but it is probably the best place to start if you have their kit already as it's quite specific. You can buy it online at http://centre.net.au/ 

When you get the confidence, there are lots of ways you can make basic preserves by heating to kill the bugs, adding syrup and then sealing the food from the air, and most seem to work. There's a good website http://www.homecanning.com/  (for some reason the Americans still call preserving in glass jars, 'canning') That site is promoting a screw top system (I've got some similar Italian lids and jars that don't use clips). The site is good for cooking times for different foods and for different strength syrups. 

The master site for all kinds of preserving tips, including drying, smoking, etc. is http://www.uga.edu/nchfp/index.html the National Centre for Food Preservation. They have great online slide shows, videos in Real Media, lots of stuff if you're feeling anxious as a beginner. Hope this gets you going.

The horse-chestnut flowers are just about finished, the tall cones of white flowers are now revealing the small spiky fruit that will become the nuts. There seem to be more this year, last season there were not enough to pick. We eat them sometimes, but they're smaller and not as tasty as a true chestnut. A bowl full of the glossy nuts makes a good bench decoration. They're nice to pick up and handle.
Compost binsWe have two big compost bins, each divided into two areas, with corrugated iron sides and supported by treated pine posts. We fill one side at a time, and usually it has rotted down to good dark soil by the time we finish the other side. We've noticed that the bin up near the herb garden is usually ready much faster than the other in the back yard. The one that's closest to the house gets all the kitchen scraps and fireplace ashes and is in a more sheltered spot so it stays wetter. The backyard one gets more tough garden waste and the weeds with dirt clods attached. 

Each year when we add the compost to the garden beds and dig it in, there's a smug satisfaction at the process of renewal. While spreading the compost and digging over the beds is a hard slog, it's feels good. But there seems to be never enough. You can always use more compost in spring.

Kellie was walking through Darling Harbour when she came across a promotion for Virgin Mobile. It was for the multimedia phones and she was prompted to go up to Richard Branston standing in a silver trenchcoat and say "Flash me Virgin Mobile', he didn't, but laughed and gave her a free Nokia phone with the inbuilt camera. It was delivered later by a girl called E. "That's my whole name" she said "like the letter E". And I thought my hippy friends  were a worry with their kid's names. Which generation is this? 
Fred Harden  
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