Friday was a student-free day, so we decided to make a family trip out of the mission from Lara to Monbulk to get our trees – close to a two-hour trip one-way. I got up early to collect an enclosed furniture trailer at 7:30 from Kerr’s Hire. By 9:00 we eventually got the whole team in the car, together with teas, snacks, toys and puzzles to keep everyone busy on the long trip. Maybe the delay in taking off was a blessing in disguise, as we sailed through Melbourne with relatively little traffic delay. Of course no trip in this family would be complete without the obligatory coffee and brunch stop. After not finding anything suitable in Upwey or Tecoma, we opted for a small detour to Olinda Café where we enjoyed a good hot coffee and huge brunch close to the warm and welcoming fireplace.
Comfortably filled we set off for the last little stretch to Pete the Permie’s Telopea Nursery in Monbulk. From the outside it looks like any normal farm gate with only a small Biodynamics sign indicating their credentials and another showing their opening times (Fridays 10:00am – 4:00pm only). But wait until you get inside! Pete and Sylvia own one of the largest heritage fruit collections in Australia and is considered something of a specialist in preserving as many varieties as he possibly can. For example, you can’t even imagine that there are more than 120 varieties of figs in Australia, and they have more than that. And talk about apples! This man can tell you everything about every conceivable type of apple available – and he’s got them all in his heritage collection. All managed organically, biodynamically and permaculturally. And of course the work Pete is doing is much more important than just enjoying a wide variety of fruits or making sure ancient varieties are not lost. He also ensures the free and open ownership of these fruit trees – his work is a constant and important stand (and often a fight) against companies patenting and trying to get ownership of our food supply.
So first we talked through our “shopping list”. What I really like about Pete, in addition to his encyclopedic knowledge, is his honesty and integrity. He could have sold us many trees that won’t grow in our area; or that wouldn’t have born well. He could have sold us grapevines that could have detrimentally affected other vines in area, but he sticks to his principles and applies his knowledge to provide us with the best for our area, and for the general good of the world around us.
Then we walked through and carefully selected the varieties we wanted for Dreamland. Pete spent a LOT of time with us. The amount of information we gathered from that session is just incredible! How to dig and prepare holes in hard clay, how to treat citrus affected by frost, how to improve and acidify the soil for blueberries, which trees’ branches shouldn’t even touch each other, which ones don’t mind – which is good to know for an edible forest garden, which trees should be pruned, how, and which not, and so on. What is so amazing is that Pete isn’t rushed through this whole process – he carefully seeks and finds the best plants that he thinks is best for our setup, and all the while the information keeps pouring out. Patricia was taking notes all the while. Last year when I was there to get Homeland’s driveway trees , I didn’t take notes and over time lost some of the valuable information.
Eventually we had as many trees as we could find at Telopea. (And of course, when we got home, we thought of quite a few more we should have taken…) What amazing fruits we now have! most of these you’ll never see at a commercial grocer. Here’s a shortened list:
- Pears – Red d’Anjou, Sensalia, Corella, Beurre Bosc, Chojuro, Packham’s Triumph, Josephine de Malines, Williams Bon Cretien
- Apples – Queen Cox, Lord Lambourne, Belle de Boskoop, Laxton’s Fortune, Akane, Opalescent, Pink Lady, Elstar
- Plums – Damson, Sugar, King Billy, Santa Rosa, Narabeen, Prune d’Agen, Angelina Burdett, Japanese
- Peaches – Golden Queen, Silvan Sweet, Heavenly Sweet
- Persimmons: Hyakomo, Dai Dai Maru, Nightingale
- Apricots: Moorpark, Storeys, Trevatt
- Cherries: Napoleon, Lapins
We also got Loquats, Strawberry Guavas, 2 Australian Plum Pines (bush tucker), and a quite a few others too. For Homeland we added 5 different citrus, 2 different figs, 2 macadamias and a big black mulberry as well.
We added 12 bales of straw for mulch to fill the trailer.
So, off we were – back all the way to Lara, via a quick take-away tea near Lillydale. What a nice little coffee shop! After dropping the trees at Homeland, Dreamland, and 3 for a friend a few blocks away, we stumbled into our home close to 7pm…
Saturday, after taking the trailer back at 7:30am, it was just planting, planting and more planting. Luckily the holes were dug and prepared more than a month ago. Over the week-end, I planted 60 trees and 6 large shrubs altogether! The bare rootstock trees were dipped in a biodynamic tree paste mixture thinned with rainwater. All the trees were painted with biodynamic tree paste and were protected with tree-guard protectors against the odd rabbit that wanders into Dreamland too. Patricia did a sterling job of cataloging all the fruit trees and screen plants by position, so that in two years’ time when our harsh winds have blown away all the labels, we will still know what we’re eating!
While I was planting the new trees, Patricia was pruning the neglected trees that we inherited at Dreamland. Apples, pears, a weeping mulberry, olives, a cherry, and more. Some were in the oddest shapes you can imagine and many were very overgrown, so she gave them a good trimming and shaping. She painted all the trees she pruned with biodynamic tree paste as well.
So, all in all, a very busy but extremely fulfilling weekend. We will be applying a lot of the lessons learnt and posting about them in future as we work through them.