The striking Fiddler Beetle has been a regular visitor over the past few years, ever since our flowers started blooming in our slowly establishing “garden”. Actually, it’s more of a half-garden half-weedbed, but when you refuse to use herbicides and are in the middle of a drought with water restrictions it’s hard to get competition for the weeds going.
This year however must be the Year of the Fiddler Beetle – they are here en-mass gorging themselves on the figs (click on any photo to enlarge).
The weather has been confusing for the trees – a lot of early spring rain and a dry but unusually cool summer. Some fruit trees stopped growing after the second summer cold spell, one peach even looked like it wanted to turn autumn colours – at Christmas!
The figs had a good start to their season, but after a couple of cold spells and one hot, dry and windy day many lost most if not all of their leaves and fruit development all but stopped. The remaining figs are ripening, although they are generally much smaller than usual.
This has been a bonus for the local crows, and now the Fiddler Bettles. Over-ripe fruit, dripping with nectar, and generally too small to be worth preserving are being carried off by fat, hungry crows and invaded by ants and beetles.
The Fiddler Beetle (Eupoecila australasiae) is named for the striking violin shaped markings on its back. It is harmless, feeding on nectar from flowering plants. It lays eggs in rotting wood or damp ground, where the grubs develop feeding on the rotting wood.
My father was a keen home fruit and vege grower, mum loved her flowering plants. Grandad loved his roses. It’s a family tradition that gets in your blood, or perhaps comes in the genes. So having grown up with home grown fruit, vegetables, and all manner of flowering and non-flowering plants it was only natural we should start to establish our own gardens on our 22 acre plot.
Recognizing food intollerances that seem prevalent in most families, we opted for following organic principles as much as possible, avoiding chemicals and even seeking out heirloom varieties where we could. Heirloom plants are those that have stood the test of time, have not been genetically modified, and are the basis from which a lot of modern hybrids sprung.
So far we have harvested home grown organic heirloom strawberries, loganberries, wild blackberries, figs and a small but growing assortment of stone fruits. From these we have made our own jams, sauces, pastes and preserves.
The passionfruit vine we grew from seed and established during the early house build stages has taken over 20 meters or so of the netting fence. It regularly provides tangy passionfruit pulp for pavlovas and passionfruit ice cubes for keeping.
Our citrus collection is starting to become heavily productive with Tahitian limes, blood oranges, lemonade lemons and ruby grapefruit. Two old trees we rescued from our city block, a Myer lemon and an orange, have started fruiting again. We’ve had a small handful of mandarins from our tiny mandarin tree, and the lemon tree we grew from seed started to flower for the first time in 2010.
Many of the smaller citrus struggled with the drought and water restrictions. Hopefully with the weather changing they will now start to flourish. This should eventually provide us with two more orange varieties to add to the mix.
The nut trees – almond, macadamia, pine nut and pecan – are growing slowly. The almond may fruit this year, the others are many years away but we look forward to pecan pie and fresh roasted pine nuts some day.
The collection of fruit and berry plants continues to grow in diversity and numbers each year. This year we will add Marionberries, gooseberries, thornless blackberries and raspberries.
Two more juvenile finger limes are growing on in the shade-house nearly ready to join the collection of micro-citrus, the original finger lime the Superb Blue Wrens made their nest in.
The essential herb garden continues to improve with mint, spearmint, Japanese mentha, parsley, golden oregano, chives, thyme and Rosemary. This year we hope to add some purple sage and when the weather warms up a fresh planting of basil.
Being able to harvest fresh fruit, vegetables and herbs from your own organic garden, free from herbicides and pesticides, is an extremely satisfying feeling. It’s not without it’s challenges but the rewards are well worth it.