Thursday, October 10, 2013

Alert, Alert -
MIA Heirloom Tomato New Recruits!!!

At 2100 hours Charlie Crop & Swap Squadron were deployed at a Drop Zone in your local area.

The Heirloom tomato new recruits are on a mission, to be adopted by local residents, to be dug in, ready for action and to thrive in their new location.

There are 50 new recruits now MIA and we are enlisting you to assist them to report in.

Please either comment below, send your communication brief via facebook or shoot us an email (details below). Outline which recruit you are in possession of (an identification photo in location would be thoroughly helpful), where you located the MIA Charlie Squadron member, who you are, where you are planning on putting your new recruit and any other particulars you wish to communicate to us, the 'Charlie Squadron head quarters'.

Enlisted to support the Charlie Crop & Swap recall mission is a local nursery that is currently in possession of 2 gift vouchers, potentially for you. The first is for the best all rounder Charlie Squadron New Recruit story (to be drawn Saturday 9th Nov at 1100 hours), the second is a lucky dip number draw, for anyone who reports their new recruits details to head quarters (to be drawn Sat 9th Nov at 1100 hours).

If you are in possession of a squadron recruit please offer it your water canteen, they will be thirsty. Also your recruit will be donning biodegradable fatigues (you can just plant it straight in the ground)but don't forget to record its dog tag identification number beforehand.

Signing out,
"Juliet, Juliet, Alpha and Sierra"

at The Crop & Swap Headquarters.

crop & swap (facebook)

in person - Faulconbridge Community Hall, 10am Saturday 12th Oct.

                                       NB the squadron's last photo taken prior to deployment...
                                      It is suspected that they will attempt to disguise themselves with
                                      undercover identities, particularly flirtatious, young, female heirlooms.


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Howdy Swappers, 
Three years ago we did a letterbox drop to our closest neighbours, we'd had an idea to turn a grassy nature strip outside our house into a community orchard, and we wanted them to be a part of it. We invited them to come one Saturday morning with " a shovel, a fruit tree, some manure or just a whole heap of enthusiasm", and come they did! That day our neighbourhood united and together we planted citrus, stone fruit, pomegranate and avocado. It has become our community orchard, where baskets of fruit are left every few days for whoever needs a lemon or a grapefruit, where Marg from around the corner occasionally potters with her secateurs and some mulch and where, in the not too distant future, our community will reap the rewards of a huge variety of communal fruit... so now is where you come there a space in your local neighbourhood for a community orchard? a patch or a verge where you can foresee lemon, orange and fig trees? If so, let the Crop & Swap community know and we can help with your planting day. Our hope is that swappers will lend a hand, a shovel, a fruit tree or a bag of manure to a fellow swapper starting a community orchard. Our aim this season is to start 3 more community orchards/gardens in the Blue Mountains.

Imagine a Blue Mountains where community orchards in lane-ways are the norm. If you'd like to volunteer your services, let us know below or on facebook how you can help , 
with neighbourly cheer, 
the Crop & Swap team.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Protecting your fruit trees from pests

Apple Box # 4

Ben Silverstone

We've all had moments of jealousy when luscious fruit appears at Crop & Swap, and we wish we could bring the same but the pests get it first. Well Ben has given us some tips on how we can be 'that guy' or 'that girl' smugly rocking up. Just think of Mike and Sue with their luscious plums or Eduardo's flavour packed strawberries - well that could be you!

Ben's top 10 tips on how to build an exclusion to protect your fruit

  1. Use exclusion just after fruit has formed
  2. Reuse old polystyrene boxes from the fruit and veg shop
  3. Cut large holes in box or poke holes in box for air and to allow light in and water to drain out
  4. Use fly screen or better still use stockings and seal the large holes you have cut and seal the top opening of the box
  5. Cut a line down one end of the box
  6. Slightly open box along this line (do this carefully so as not the break the box) and slide branch into box. The polystyrene will close around the branch and hold (may have to pack some leaves in the slight opening along the line)
  7. Close stocking over top of box and seal (use velcro, rivet nails etc). The exclusion will allow light and air in and keep out pests including fruit fly
  8. Using old wire coat hangers and stockings also works well for some fruit trees
  9. Many exclusions need to be adapted to the type of fruit tree
  10. Ask me at next Crop & Swap if you have any questions!

I've found this approach to be fruitful ;-)

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Apple Box 3 - composting with black soldier fly

Last swap, Joe talked about the benefits of using black soldier fly larvae to compost kitchen scraps, much in the same way that a worm farm operates.

Black soldierfly have a rather short and desperate adult life, with the sole purpose of finding a mate, a pile of rotting compost, and a good pick up line before dropping dead.

BSF larvae eat just about any kitchen scraps including meat and dairy, as well as the usual fruit and vegetable leftovers, and can be cultivated in much the same way as composting worms, to break down food waste. A BSF composting unit can be easily built from materials found at your local hardware, and once a colony has been established they can consume food waste much faster than worms. The larve themselves make a fantastic feed for chickens and even fish. BSF larvae are high in both protein and calcium, which is perfect for chooks. they are non invasive and do not enter houses or spread disease like other flies.

Our black soldierfly composter

Our Black Soldier fly composter

Here is how it works. Food scraps go inside and the female BSF are attracted by the scraps. They fly in through the pipe at the top and down into the bin where they lay their eggs (in the hundreds). They like to lay their eggs in crevasses, so some sheets of corrugated cardboard attached to the inside make great maternity wards. the eggs hatch and the larvae fall on the food scraps, and get to work munching it up.

to begin a colony, start with a small amount of vegetable scraps. As they begin to break down, the adult fly's will naturally be attracted and enter the composter to lay their eggs. this can take some weeks, so be patient. BSF are most active during spring and summer, which after the best times to begin a colony.

the larvae crawl up the pipes and into Jo's Tupperware container... thanks darling...sorry

 As the larvae mature they develop the instinct to climb to higher ground. The larvae find their way to the pipes and climb up them, then slide down into the separate storage container, where they are unwittingly trapped to be fed to the chooks.

Keep the composter in the shade, out of direct sunlight.

the larvae hard at work on one of our defiant choko's and watermelon rind

Make your own
there are a number of DIY designs on the net. we made ours using a clip lock tub, some PVC pipe parts, , some hessian and fly screen, a saw and a drill. The key is to angle the pipes at 35 degrees so that it is not too steep for them to climb.include some ventilation holes and cover with fly screen, and some drainage holes in the bottom, which you can cover with hessian. It takes less than half a leisurely hour to put together and cost us about $40 or you could buy one of the fancy ones online for about $200.

the main benefits are:
1. a very efficient method of waste disposal
2. meat and dairy waste can be added to established colonies, unlike regular composting methods, reducing your waste output.
3. the larvae make an excellent source of food for poultry and fish, and can be frozen for later use.
4. they don't spread disease like other flies, and rarely enter the home.
5. they emit a natural repellent to other flies once the colony has been established.

The smell can be an issue if you add more waste than they can consume. Sawdust or coffee can help here too.