Lanyon Plant Fair

This weekend past has seen the last of the Open Garden plant fairs to be held at Lanyon Homestead. Sadly the Open Garden Scheme will cease operating at the end of June this year.

Lanyon looking its best for the Plant Fair
Lanyon looking its best for the Plant Fair

We took the opportunity to make a foray into the world of specialist bulb suppliers, succulent growers, iris, perennials, obscure bulb and rose specialists to name but a few of the offerings. We also went to hear Owen Pidgeon of Loriendale Orchards (and contributor to the food section of the Canberra Times), speaking about his life as a farmer and his special interests in growing both heritage and modern apple and pear varieties.

Owen, discussing his favourite apples and pears
Owen, discussing his favourite apples and pears

Not only did Owen talk about his fruit he also provided samples of the same for the visitors to taste. We selected several Early Gold apples and some Beurre Bosc pears to try. If you’d like to try some of Owen’s apples and pears you can visit the orchard next Saturday for their annual Apple Day:

Saturday 28th March 2015
1.30 – 5.00 pm
At “Loriendale Orchard”

Travel along the Barton Highway, north of Canberra
Turn right at Spring Range Road
(2km north of border between ACT/NSW)

A hatful of tasty Early Gold apples and Beurre Bosc pears
A hatful of tasty Early Gold apples and Beurre Bosc pears

While I wasn’t able to find the specific plants I was after at the Fair, you won’t be surprised to hear that I did manage to buy ‘a few’ plants. The Plant People had just what I was after, Australian plants and those rarest of beasts, small grassland plants! I know it doesn’t sound very exciting but finding small plants to fill in the garden understorey is quite difficult. I bought, Pterostylis curta (Blunt Greenhood Orchid), Microseris lanceolata (Yam Daisy) and Libertia paniculata (Branching grass flag).

Plant purchases from the Lanyon Plant Fair
Plant purchases from the Lanyon Plant Fair

At the back is a ring-in, my Alpine strawberry (Fragaria ‘Golden Alexandria’). I’ve transplanted the orchids into the terracotta pot where, hopefully, they will grow happily out of the reach of marauding snails. On the right front are the Yam Daisies whose flower resembles a dandelion, but are much larger and flower on a tall stem. Yam daisies are one of the highlights of the summer season in the Australian Alps where they form swathes of yellow across the landscape. I understand that their tubers are edible, not that I’m planning on eating mine anytime soon. Just behind them are the Libertias which are members of the Iris family. These white flowering plants have been in cultivation outside of Australia since the early 1800’s.

Anyway as Autumn is now officially upon us we are starting to make inroads into our major garden task of the year, redeveloping the front garden. After the delays caused by the termite infestation we can now re-start filling in the large void where our (formerly termite infested) hardwood plank path used to be. Hopefully all these plants and more will be finding their way into the ground very soon.


An Apple a Day

We tried to make cider last year with limited success, I think the term ‘small scale production’ took on a new meaning with our 1.5 litres of finished product! However this year we are determined to do a bit better.

Following our visit to Reidsdale Old Cheese Factory to wassail the apple trees in September last year we knew exactly where to find professional help. Sully’s Cider House offer an apple pressing service to members of the public. They will also take your juice through the full pasteurisation or cidering process if you choose not to do this yourself. Their press requires some 200kgs of fruit to operate so you do have to have either several large trees of your own or access to trees to get a pressing done.

First we needed to get some apples so we hit the roads around the ACT to find feral fruit trees, of which there are many, growing on the roadsides. Feral fruit always makes me think of fairly ratty, spotty, insect infected fruit. Surprisingly that’s not what we found. Here are some pictures of two of the apple trees and a pear tree that we collected fruit from. Picture perfect as you can see (well OK the pear had a few ratty leaves). You can quite readily mix apples and pears in the same cider batch.


Having lived in a kitchen full of fruit and plenty of small spiders for several days we were quite pleased when the day came to get the fruit processed. We got underway with our trailer load of fruit (not to mention some more bags in the boot) and headed out to Braidwood.


On arrival we got there we got stuck straight into the pressing. First washing the fruit, to get rid of the dirt and bugs,


then putting the fruit through the chopper (most home cider makers use a garden chipper),


and finally carefully building up the layers of the cidery ‘wedding cake’.


Building up layers with some nylon curtain netting in between is critical to ensure that the juice can flow out between the layers and avoid the massive build up of pressure that could result in the fruit exploding out of the press. (Aparently very ugly, not to mention sticky, when it happens).

Even before the fruit is pressed the weight of the layers is enough to start the juice flowing. In this barrel is over 20 litres of juice that was collected before any pressure was placed on the fruit.


Then on go the sides of the press and the main action begins.


From our near to 250 kgs of fruit we got 115 litres of apple juice. We didn’t bring all of it home – Sully’s will buy back from you any suitable juice that is excess to your requirements.


No rest for the wicked as we had to get stuck into bottling and preparing the fruit juice for fermentation as quickly as possible. We have a number of uses for the juice. Roughly half is being made into cider, TB is seen here adding champagne yeast to the juice. We decided not to go down the ‘wild’ yeast path for our first large batches as the process can be difficult to control and may well deliver a product with some very unpleasant flavours.


Of the rest we have fresh juice to drink this week. We have also saved most of the remaining juice in sterilised bottles, which are then pasteurised in the same way as you bottle fruit, ie heated in a water bath for 30 minutes. These we will be able to keep for later use.


The last remaining 10 litres is being devoted to two small projects. Firstly I’m making a demijohn of cider which has had leatherwood honey added to it. The higher sugar levels will raise the alcohol content of the cider. However, we will have to wait and see whether we get any trace of the leatherwood flavour in the final product. TB is turning the rest of the juice into apple version of vino cotto (or what ever you would call it) by very slowly heating the juice at low temperature, over several days, to reduce the juice to a viscous lushness.

If nothing else we have a delightful apple scent throughout the house accompanying the slow bloop, bloop of the fermenting cider in the kitchen.

If you are interested in making your own cider you might find the pages of the Whittenham Hill Cider Pages useful.