Have Wheel, Will Barrow

Now that the wheel barrow is back up and running again, and I have some time again. I get around to planting the new avocado tree.

We have an avocado tree. We have had it growing in the yard between the cherry orchard and the hazel nut grove. It’s been growing well for the past 40 years and usually has a good crop of avocados each winter. We pick about half a dozen or so each week. It has to be done at least a week in advance of when you want to eat them, as they take 7 to 10 days to finish ripening up after picking.

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The tree has grown quite large over the years, so we now need a step-ladder and  extendable, long-handled, pruning secateurs to reach up to the top to get at them. We get out there, Janine underneath where we think that the fruit will land. I get up close to it with the long secateurs. When fully extended, this gadget gets to fruit up to 6 metres high and is quite unwieldy to handle up above your head with arms outstretched. I cut the stem and Janine catches the fruit in a towel that she has stretched between her arms, like a fireman blanket. It works quite well – usually. Unless the avocado hits a branch on the way down and spins off at a tangent.

We have been eating avocados for the past couple of months now and there are still plenty up there in the upper branches. Because they don’t ripen until they are picked. It’s the best fruit tree that we have. We can decide when we want to eat the fruit at our convenience. We have had an unseen avocado last up in the dizzying heights of the upper branches for 5 months and suddenly dropping off in December.

I learnt a few years ago that avocados are self fertile. BUT, you get a better fruit set if there are other different varieties close at hand. Avocados come in two families. Type A and B. It is best if you have one of each. So I decided to buy another tree. We currently have a variety called ‘bacon’ which is the cool hardy one. Hence it has survived the snow fall and the deep frosts of the early years. However, now with global warming and reduced frosts here, it seems to be doing very well. I don’t know how long avocados live, but 40 years is a good effort for a fruit tree growing at the very edge of its range, and lets face it, they are a tropical fruit. So we have been very lucky as well as industrious.

When I went to buy the second tree, it soon became apparent that you can’t just go out and buy an avocado tree these days in Australia. The fruit is so damn popular (and expensive) that people are planting vast orchards of them and the growers are flat-out keeping up with the demand. Selling thousands at a time to commercial plantations. I had to put my name down with a few growers, then wait a year for the chance to pick up one of the left-overs from large orders.

One year on and we now have 5 more trees. Making a balance of early and late fruiters and a balance of 3 of each type A and type B varieties. This latest tree, that was delivery last week, has been harden off by the back door, next to the water tank. It is now ready to plant. This one is a small-sized tree, only expected to grow to 2.5 to 3 metres, and is a bit frost tender. Depending on how big it grows, I’m hoping to be able to keep it protected for the first few years.

It gets a big, wide hole excavated for it and this is then filled with a mixture of old rotted manure and compost into the soil. Avacados are rich feeders. It also gets a steel mesh tree guard up to 1 metre high to stop the kangaroos from eating it in the first few weeks. The kangaroos took the top clean out of another tree that I planted on its first night, before I got the tree guard in place. They love to try anything new.

Some of the earlier trees that I planted in the autumn are now just about to burst their new buds into spring growth. They seem like they are growing very well.

If all goes well. In the future we might expect an avocado season of over 6 months.

 

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I shrink-wrap the wire frame to protect the tender little thing for the next month, until the cold winds blow them selves out and spring starts proper.

Catch-up

I’ve been so busy with the final stages of writing, editing and printing the book. Not to mention the organisation and documenting of all the work in my exhibition. It’s been a busy 15 years and a very hectic last 4 or 5 months.

So now it’s catch-up time. Janine has been carrying the major part of the load of running the house and garden recently. I need to inflate the tyre on the old wheel barrow, that has gone flat. On inspection it looks more like a repair job. But on closer examination, I find that the tyre has completely perished and isn’t worth repairing. It looks like a new tyre and inner tube will be the answer. At the garage, these turn out to be almost as expensive as car tyres! I’m shocked. I decide that the answer is to buy a new Chinese solid rubber, non-inflatable, wheel. $32 sounds like a bargain, until I get it home and find that it is made for the new 25 mm dia. axles that are now standard. My barrow is 30 years old and has a 19mm axle. It doesn’t fit.

Minor hiccup. I just happen to have a length of 25 mm steel bar in the shed. I cut it to length, clean off the flaky rust and hey-presto! It slides through the tyre, but  it doesn’t fit in the mounting brackets on the wheel barrow. Much too big! I have to grind off the old rusty bolts and then hold the brackets in the vice while I heat them up to red-hot with the oxy-torch and re-forge them into shorter, but larger dia. shapes to suit the new axle. It all goes smoothly enough, but then I find that the larger axle/bracket combination needs longer bolts. I don’t have any that are the right length, so I make some out of Stainless steel Boker bar and stainless steel nuts that I have in the kiln factory for kiln repair work. I’ll be retiring very soon from major kiln work. So I won’t be needing this kind of stuff in stock anymore. The last problem is that the spacers that locate the wheel in the centre of the shaft, don’t fit on the new larger axle. No problem. I cut a couple of pieces of sq. RHS to size and we’re away.

What could have been a 15 minute job has taken 2 hours. But it is up and working again. Hopefully, for another 30 years!

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Book launch and porcelain show opens

Last night we had the book launch and the opening of my new show at Watters Gallery in Sydney It was well attended, a few red spots appeared and we sold about 20 of the limited first edition print run of 50 copies. A good start.

Grace Cochrane gave a beautiful introduction to the show and the book describing their inter-connectedness. The show looks very well spread out on all the plinths that the gallery could muster. There are 81 works in the show, occupying all the ground floor space in the main gallery.

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It’s a very good feeling to see it all come together at last, and I am very grateful to all the people in half a dozen countries who contributed to the research and through them to a successful conclusion to this creative endeavour.