Apple pressing, Green Manure, Building and more

We recently did a joint apple pressing with our nieghbor and friend, Maureen, her WWOOFer and our WWOOfers. Apple pressing is a great way to turn a surplus of fruit into juice or other products and can be a great community event.  In our area there are a few different presses, some manufactured and some home made, which are shared throught the community.

The apples get quartered, ran through a crusher and then piled in the press. The press pours juice into a back which gets decanted into bottles which are put in a big metal pot that holds about 10 bottles   and heated to 65 degres C, just warm enough to preserve them.
As the crops of different garden beds finish, the ones not  planted out with winter vegies, get sown with a green manure crop. Green manure is a crop that is grown solely for the purpose of increasing soil structure and fertility and commonly consists of a fast growing grass to build organic matter and a legume to fix nitrogen.  The main green manure we are using this winter, and the one shown in this picture, is a mixture of oats and field peas. We are also trying some other green manures on small patches, including quinoa. The quinoa weve planted is growing vigorously right now and looking promising. The wide leaves in a dense planting should work well to shade out weeds and be a strong healthy stand. The main question is how the quinoa, normally grown as a summer grain, will hold up in the frosts. David has seen quinoa grown overseas over winter, but in a slightly milder climate. We dont have very severe frosts ( -2, -3 degrees C is common in the middle of winter, but there is potential for heavier frosts) so it should have a good chance.

As far as rotation of Vegies goes here, we do our best to use good rotation practices to break disease cycles in plants and to use nutrients in a balanced and thorough way. We do not have a strict planned rotation but we do plan things out as the seasons change and adapt those plans based on how season turns out, if a crop finishes earlier or later than estimated, etc. The unpredictability of season in the southern hemisphere make versatility and flexibility very important. We have two main garden areas separated by a good distance of buildings and paths, inside each of these main garden areas there are numerous individual beds following shapes and sizes that fit into the lay of the land. we intentionally move crops between these two areas as well as between the different specific beds. There are also a series of permanent trellises in both garden areas as well as in other small beds on the sides of buildings and fences. Our rotation system is  a big shuffle of all of these factors as well as many more like water supply depending on the season. We currently have a brassica disease called clubroot in one garden area so we’ve made sure that we are no longer growing brassicas in this section, all of our winter brassicas are in the other garden area.  Hopefully with a break in the disease cycle we can eliminate clubroot from the garden.

Over the past week I’ve had the opportunity to spend a few days on the building site, working with James Henderson, our local, very experienced earth builder.  We put up a small section of Light earth wall on the end of the greenhouse which will contain a Clivus Multrum composting toilet and a shower. Light earth construction is fairly new to me and this was my first hands on experience. Light earth made by mixing a clay slurry with straw and ramming it into temporary plywood formwork that is screwed into a stud frame. As the wall goes up the formwork can be undone and moved up a level. Once dry the wall will be coated with a render. The result is a material similar to cob but very heavy on the straw providing great insulative properties. I was very impressed with the speed of this building technique and structural qualities.

These two walls took James and myself one full day and a couple extra hours of another day, not including the time to build the stud frame. Im sure that it would go much faster with a more experienced builder in my place.

And of course its always good fun playing with mud.

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