You might prefer a shower but Canberran Suzanne Eastwood is an expert on water-bathing.
She responded to an Urban Homesteading call-out to demonstrate preserving skills at the inaugural ACT Permaculture Festival. Being held on April 15 at Canberra City Farm in Fyshwick, the theme of 'connectivity' brings together organic gardening, food-producing, health and wellbeing groups to share their stories with the public. Suzanne, from a Gippsland farm in dairy and potato country, thinks it is important to pass on old skills to people wanting to preserve their own food to be in control of what you are eating. Her presentation of water-bath preserving is at 10.15am in the onsite kitchen.
With her partner, recently retired academic Anni Dugdale, now a grand preserver, the couple puts the Fowlers Vacola preserving kit to good use. Fruit in jars or bottles is placed in cold water, heated to boiling point (100 degrees) and left in for about15 minutes to sterilise (depending on the size of the jar).
Produce from their large garden in Rivett is turned into seasonal pantry products. This season they have made mulberry cordial, loquat and raspberry cordial and Nordic red currant cordial. Jams include fig and ginger, plum and ginger, blackberry, raspberry, preserved plums in ginger or lemon and redcurrant jelly. They use a relatively low sugar content for jams, jelly and preserves, or unprocessed district honey, which allows the natural flavour and tartness of the fruit to come through without being overwhelmed by a sweet sugary syrup. Summer honey from Tathra had a light, delicate bush flavour. They use minimum cooking times to safely preserve but not overdo the cooking of the fruit.
Suzanne says, because of demand, the Australian company since 1915, Fowlers Vacola is again producing sauce bottles and small jam jars which they have not made for 50 years.
Crabapples are being harvested and they are still getting a handful of raspberries every day. Suzanne has been picking five kilos of tomatoes daily from seven varieties, an armful of self-sown silverbeet, zucchinis and pumpkins. There are shallots, kale, parsley, comfrey and pineapple sage is a treat for visiting birds.
Sultana grapes garland a large pergola and rainwater from its roof fills a large water tank beside an alfresco eating area decorated with an array of teapots from op shops. The grapes have been devoured by silver eyes, spotted pardalotes, bowerbirds, currawongs and some by Suzanne and Anni.
The magnificent mulberry tree produced 50kg of fruit this year and Barter Economy members came and picked kilos in exchange for handmade soap and seedlings. Baskets of japonica fruit from a friend's hedge will be made into japonica and lime jelly and japonica paste. Friends who live a few blocks away, give them fruit from fig, lemon and apricot trees and, in exchange, they share mulberries, loquats, zucchinis and eggs.
There are seven chickens, two Chinese silky bantams mainly for their beauty and four New Hampshire/Rhode Island Red cross hens. They are fed a natural grain diet and they process all garden green weeds and excess fruit. A few months ago they had 25 chickens but were cleaned out by a fox, apart from one Barnevelder. Suzanne thinks that night every chicken in Rivett was dead and despairs that there is no urban fox control in Canberra so the numbers are expanding exponentially. She says, "The foxes are moving down the drains and through the urban forests and using the local chicken runs like a KFC takeaway."
The 'free entry' event will be opened by ACT Greens Minister for Climate Change and Sustainability, Shane Rattenbury, ABC tv's Costa Georgiadis will be there and permaculture co-originators David Holmgren will launch his new book "Retrosuburbia".
In a cooking demonstration, Fiona Porteous of Bent Shed Produce will make frittata using Warrigal greens, Gurken Yeniceri will talk about making cheeses, Bronwyn Richards and Helen Lynch from Wynlen House Slow Food in Braidwood will discuss intensive polycultures and offer tastings of garlic varieties. Food stalls include Caroola Farm's stews, soups and kombucha, Good Life Food serving Asian dishes made with locally farmed produce, Canberra City Farm's wood fired pizzas and herbal teas, curries from the Food Coop, vegan food from Lily's Vegan Kitchen and vegetarian food from End of Thyme.
On Saturday 14 April from 10.30am-2pm in a stall on the events terrace next to the National Arboretum Canberra Village Centre, the Harvesting Group of the Friends of NAC will be selling 240 jars and bottles of forest preserves made by volunteers. There will be fig forest jam, figs in balsamic, poached in white or red wine, fruit glaze and jelly from Japanese dogwood forest (Cornus kousa), tomato relish, basil and parsley pesto, and dried herbs from the Discovery Kitchen Display Garden and Sensory Garden.