Spring 2017 at McCarthy Park

We have had a very busy spring this year, though we think we say that every year!

Sometimes it is nice to just make the garden look nice! Yes, the mulch will help with water retention as the hot summer comes, but…… it just looks so good!

Here’s a couple of before and after shots:

Of course more than mulch spreading has been happening:

Looks like a good crop of olives this year!

We had a great harvest of perch to stock up the freezer!

And some yabbies too!

And of course now the weather is warming up, the trout are harvested, smoked and vacuum packed for the coming year!

Giant Silver Perch!

We had a good harvest of silver perch from the swimming pool, using an adapted prawn net. We netted 8 fish, all of which were over a kilo, but the biggest of all was this one- an amazing 2.7 kg! We assume it was one of the original perch we put in 5 years ago, to get to such a size……… either that or it is a real greedy guts!

A whopper!

Silver perch…

Now the weather is warming up and the Silver Perch in the swimming pool are more actively eating (they slow down a fair bit over the colder months), they are easy to catch on a fishing line. They like prawns, but their favourite is worms! The tricky part is catching more than one- it seems that once the first good sized one is caught, the others know and avoid the bait. We have our great net system now though, which means we can hop in and catch a few-selecting the ones to harvest and releasing the others. These two beauties were caught for a lunch with guests- the biggest was 1.2kg!

Silver Perch

Silver Perch

Trout season begins!

As the water temperatures have gone down below 20C now, we took out the perch from the aquaponics fish tank and added them to the swimming pool with the other perch. It is great to be able to have a variety of sizes of fish living together and not eating each other!  We added trout fingerlings to the fish tank for winter, and already they are leaping out of the water to feed! They are so much more exciting than perch, but the perch are certainly tasty and easy to manage. Part of the change over involved a good tidy up of the grow beds, which were looking very sad. Pulling out plants that had finished providing (or were too massacred by caterpillars to keep!), adding some fresh expanded clay and seedlings, and they look so much better.

tidied up and ready to grow!

tidied up and ready to grow!

AP planting 2

It was also time to harvest some yabbies, and it reminded us of how much it hurt our backs to bend over the ibc tanks to clean them out…so, we purchased a grow bed to match the aquaponics system and replaced the ibc tanks with that. Now we have a great yabbie tank that doesn’t involve bending over to clean, and it looks good too as it matches the AP system! Of course, we had to harvest a dozen or so yabbies at the same time!

new yabbie tank

new yabbie tank

The ups and downs of farming…..

Well, as we said, setbacks are as much a part of farming life, even the small scale we have, as all the wonderful births and growths!

We have had our worst lambing season ever….five sets of twins to five ewes should have been fabulous, but we have four surviving lambs, all for various reasons. It has been quite distressing- we are used to having the odd problem or death, but losing 6 lambs in two weeks was most unusual.

To add to that, we had an aquaponic disaster too, where we lost a lot of trout. Water quality can change very quickly, and so it did here. We flushed the tank as soon as the fish went off their food, but next morning there were lots of floaters…another very distressing sight! We have a few left so have done more flushing, added more salt and more calcium carbonate, so hope all will be well.

Despite the death and destruction of late, there is also good news…..the vegetables are growing well, we harvested our first luffa..

First successful luffa

First successful luffa

IMG_0089

Believe it or not there has also been time for more preserving as it is orange season once again. The produce room is stocked up with Orange Liqueur Brandy, Marmalade and Bottled Oranges! Ginger beer and Ginger Cordial are also new favourites.

Spaghetti Sauce, Ginger beer and oranges in juice..

Spaghetti Sauce, Ginger beer and oranges in juice..

Pumpkin Palace moved to its new location.

Pumpkin Palace moved to its new location.

 

Spring update…..

Spring is such a lovely time of the year! Not too hot, enough rain not to need to water the garden, births, and overall growth…….

The aquaponics system is going very well, and we have eaten our first trout from it.

Smoked trout

With the warmer weather coming, we have been monitoring the water temperature as the trout are not happy if it is over 20C. to help extend the season, and reduce the algae that was growing in the fish tank, we put up a gazebo to shade the fish tank. This also provided a structure to attach a support for the tomatoes that are growing like crazy!

Aquaponics October 2012

The orchard is also going very well in this gorgeous weather, with the peaches, nectarines, mulberry and citrus all fruiting. We have high hopes for the olive trees too, after only two olives last year!

Olive tree flowering

We have even preserved some of the lemons, and made jam with mulberries for later….

Preserved lemons

In fact, we have been able to spend a bit more time preserving some produce, and decided to convert a room to store it in! We will be able to use this room for butchering as well, instead of outside where we usually have done it.

Produce room

We also have our very first bee hive, and have ordered our bees….so this room will also be where we can extract the honey safely (away from the bees!).

Naturally, being spring, there have been numerous births (and unfortunately some deaths). Two bantams successfully hatched chicks, though four were killed/taken by something, perhaps a crow. We also lost a duck, we think to an eagle, as there was nothing left but feathers and a beak. Two ducks are sitting on eggs, and three turkeys….so hopefully more births will follow!

Possums, lambs and lettuce!!!

The possum is becoming more and more comfortable around us and now resides in the workcoming emerging from its slumber at dusk to look for food!

You lookin' at me?

Our first lambs of this season were born  on 7th August, and are looking good so far!

The aquaponics system is certainly continuing to excell! The growth is greater than that in the soil garden, to the extent that we are having to do some thinning out. The trout are growing very well too!

Growth 3 months from planting/sowing.

Hello trout!

In not too long at all, we finished preparing for the aquaponic system…….

Spa moved, ground being prepared for the system

Once we had finished all the ground work- a retaining wall (two in fact), about 100 slabs, lifting and relaying pavers, moving the biofilter…..the system was set up by Backyard Aquaponics ….

All set up, ready for fish and veggies

Then we had a trip to buy some fish, deciding on 50 trout, which struggled a bit on the trip but revived once in the tank. Of course, most projects have setbacks– and this one did too!! We lost 20 fish overnight as they tend to leap high into the air…and clean out of the tank! This resulted in another trip for more fish, and a net to cover the fish tank, something we should have thought of in the first place!

Trout safely under their net

Planting the grow beds

Now for the perch…..

Well, with the trout out for this year, in go the perch. We put two sizes in- fingerlings that will take this and next summer to grow to eating size, and some larger (approximately 300 grams) that will be ready during this summer. This means we won’t have to wait a full 18 months before we have any fish ready to eat. The plan now is that each spring we add more perch fingerlings and this should enable us to maintain a steady supply of fish without the need to completely harvest every 6 months.

silver perch fingerlings November 2011

300 gram silver perch 12 November 2011

We are looking forward to the perch getting bigger and eating all the string algae so it is nicer for swimming!