This farm blog of 2 folk, a dog and a tractor has been shifted to my very own website called
I do hope you will join me there.
Thank you for all your comments and support.
Wishing you a fabulous 2021.
This farm blog of 2 folk, a dog and a tractor has been shifted to my very own website called
I do hope you will join me there.
Thank you for all your comments and support.
Wishing you a fabulous 2021.
August for the 2 folk,the dog and the tractor was a happy one, with the tractor saving the day. We got stuck! Let me translate.
We received very good falls of the right sort of rain. Our paddock soils became sodden enough for our ute to be “paddock parked” – unexpectedly. We don’t use the word “bogged” because it’s a bit of a negative word and it seems at odds with the joy of receiving rain.
For those interested, there is only 1 practical farming maxim to take away from our experience. Don’t go out into the paddocks in heavy machinery after heavy rainfalls. In our case we would nuance that with, don’t use a ute loaded up with wood and don’t go in the dark when you can’t see the track properly. Despite the best intentions you end up not being any help to the neighbour who is in EXACTLY the same situation – unexpectedly.
You’re welcome my fellow Pluviophiles. And now to the heart of the story.
A few of us are gathered around the kitchen table at tea time and the chat starts with the very normal, and socially acceptable, high level observations about the weather. Amongst farming folk this is never deemed boring. This month we had rain to talk about so there were cheerful comparisons of fantastic rainfall, even tales of livestock caught in odd spots and affected crossings over rivers and creeks.
Then, a pause, as we took a moment before deciding to elaborate. There is a distinct sitting back into the chair, a thoughtful sip of wine as a bashful smile starts to spread across a face.
And then it’s on. One after the other, newbie and life long farmer alike, start to regale their story of paddock parking their car – unexpectedly. We tell our tales of woe, with deadpan faces, and quietly spoken voices, but ultimately spinning a yarn that ends with happy faces, guffaws and howls of laughter. The undeclared winner is the farmer with the most novel way of freeing their vehicle trumped only by the farmer with the most number of support vehicles that came to help and inevitably became stuck – unexpectedly.
As a newbie farmer, I admit to happy relief at not winning this story telling competition. There is also a new found camaraderie. We were all happy to find ourselves stuck in the mud – unexpectedly. We all had soils that were fabulously sodden. But why was it all unexpected. Farmers watch the weather reports like hawks. Because such good falls of good rain are rare. Not even the meteorological department can pick them. But we got some and we are happy.
The kitchen garden is heaving with life and producing plenty of brassicas (brussel sprounts, kale, tender stem broccoli, broccoli, cauliflower), rocket, coriander, parsley, rosemary, rhubarb. The cabbages and broadbeans are “in development” and under cover the tomatoes, basil and peas have sprouted. Sadly the capcicums didn’t, may be due to old seed or badly kept seed. Jobs to do include weeding and feeding before things warm up any more. And working out what I can grow in our new growhouse. I’m plotting avocados, oranges, perhaps even a ginger plant, and hanging pots of strawberries, lots of them.
It is a shame I can’t share the sound of the bees. The sound of many bees, working hard and talking to each other as they jump from flower to flower has been missing from the garden for a couple of months. Every now and then I would spot a lone worker and feel her desperation to be back at the hive. It was deathly silent on the grey cold days. I wrote that I feared the worst. The last few sunny days of August have revived the hive and the girls are out in full swing. It is one of those grounding sounds of spring, the plants grow, the flowers blossom and the bees buzz. Currently flowering are wallflower (Erysimum sp), borage (Borago officialis), rocket, rosemary, lavender, tender stem broccoli and ornamental Manchurian pear (Pyrus ussuriensis). Jobs to do include potting up the wormwood (Artemisia sp) and geranium (Pelargonium sp) cuttings and hardest of all, create garden beds to take the seedlings of lavender (Lavandula sp), rock rose (Cistaceae sp), salvia (Salvia sp), shrubby germander (Teuchrium sp), sea holly (Eryngium) and buddleia (Budleja sp).
August is my birthday month so the book stash has been replenished and I am doing all I can to work through them slowly, like savouring a favourite piece of chocolate. The novel, “The Dictionary of Lost Words” by Pip Williams is intriguing in its premise and very well told, I was left wanting to know more about the well crafted characters.
July’s story for the 2 folk, the dog and the tractor is a deliberate diversion. We spent the first half of July in deep sadness at saying goodbye to our much loved flock of merino wethers. We need time to process the emotions. The knowledge, ‘The Boys’ were due for sale, has weighed heavily for months. I admit to an element of avoidance. We have so much going on in our lives that the sale of our sheep was peripheral to our focus, as awful things are when you are trying to avoid them. And in true form, they don’t disappear either. So now is not the time. Just know we have suffered a loss, grown a bit, and are now sufficiently experienced to wear Big Farmer pants.
One way we deal with loss is by getting active on something. Not that we need another project but rather we need a distraction and a creative outlet, to let our minds fill with different issues rather than a persistent loop of emotional angst.
So we started the build of our growhouse. By the time we made the decision to build, we had a very short window to turn this around for this garlic season. For an off the shelf solution, extended delivery times, builder availability, associated costs, and suitability were major hurdles. Yet these hurdels created the perfect scenario requiring us to get creative. Thankfully many before us have and we found a solution online.
We chose to build it out of sustainably logged hardwood, heavily oiled, because we like the look of wood, it is lovely to work with, added much needed heft and weight to help with anchoring the structure against our high winds and overcame the issue of the metal overheating in our extreme summer temperatures. We have built aluminium polytunnels and watched with dismay as the wind buckled and ripped them to shreds. This growhouse will be clad with a polycarbonate corrugated sheet. Glass, whilst traditional, beautiful, and heavy, would have caused extreme temperatures inside during our summer. Anything over 35 degrees Celcius and garlic plants start to shut down. This cladding will reduce some of the UV and if not sufficient we can retrofit retractable shade cloth blinds. We have not resolved how to best seal the growhouse to enable temperature control. We get a handful of cold, grey days in winter but mostly the days are crisp and clear with bright sunshine. The sheeting may be enough to block cold winds and yet warm the space sufficiently to encourage growth. In summer the same winds should cool the place down. I’m not sure if it is possible to account for everything, sometimes you just have to push ahead, that whole adventure over plan thing.
The housebuild is spluttering to life again, inspired by the growhouse build. If we were paying someone to build our house, a month of inactivity would be hard to bear. We realise we need such times to solve some of the larger design components of the build. There is a luxury in not having to make on the spot decisions from a limited array of options, yet no one likes living in a partially build house forever…so we ponder, dream, and discuss. Co-Captain typically has to translate to me how some ideas might actualise, but it is a slow form of doing. And then there are times like now, where we have drive, funds, good weather and certainty about what we want to achieve next.
The kitchen garden is producing a wonderful array of things green, although peas continue to elude me. Huge heads of broccoli, plenty of broccolini (tenderstem broccoli), spinach/silverbeet, rocket, coriander, lettuce, thyme, parsley, rosemary, brussel sprouts, kale, carrots and the odd snow pea (sigh). The cauliflower and cabbage now have heads forming which is my first time. I pulled the carrots. Despite the carnage inflicted by the persistent sheep grazing we harvested plenty. I am quite enamoured with the wee dinky tiny ones and have been snacking or using them as a garnish for days now. They are far too precious to chop.
Winter in the bee garden is typically slim pickings but currently flowering we have the wallflower, rocket, peas, salvia, hellebores and rosemary. The broccolini is just itching to burst into flower, but I’m being greedy and snapping them off. Whilst the jonquils are up they don’t seem a favourite for the bees. I was taught bees are not particularly attracted to strongly smelling flowers. Good for humans.
2 books deliberately purchased to bend my brain. I did learn something from Reni Eddo-Lodge’s book, addressing the race relations in Britain. However, I’m Australian. I think there is a far more relevant and possibly harrowing story to tell of the impact of British colonialism, laws, and the ongoing mindset of white privilege and superiority in our country. The books are out there. I am looking. I will be sharing what I learn. If you have some suggestions please get in touch.
May and June were busy months for the 2 folk, the dog and the tractor. Farm work dominated as we built (yet more) wicking beds and planted the garlic crop, conducted shearing, and managed livestock. Big or protracted events and projects demand so much of us, in the lead up, then the event itself, and then any fallout. Here we spend so much of our time feeling like we are flying by the seat of our pants, learning on the run, (of which there is so much) and getting things done in time for…. I can’t pick just one reason. Properly thrilling. I understand now you need healthy adrenal glands to cope with this farming lark. Yes, there are days of bucolic serenity. There are also days, surprisingly more than you think, demanding high energy and persistence. I actually signed up for this, happily unconsciously incompetent. We are now firmly on the consciously incompetent step of The Hierarchy of Competence. I guess that is progress.
I do love a country walk. In league with my neighbour we walk, at pace, for an hour or so each day. We don’t manage every day, who am I kidding! We walk past resting paddocks, paddocks with new lambs sprouting overnight, through tunnels under railway lines, past stock still rock wallabies (today we even saw a joey peeping out of the pouch) and tucked away cottages. There is plenty to see, little need to chat, and 2 puffing billies who simultaneously wheeze with relief when we reach the top of each rise, minor or major.
photos by Em Callaghan @Emcallaghan1
It is early morning, still dark as I push open the bright red door to the shearing shed. I can hear the sheep moving about, shuffling and clip-clopping on the wooden slatted floor, huddling to face the intruder. Except for the pet posse of 4, who instantly know my voice and hurry to me, ever hopeful I will save them from this whole flock humiliation they are enduring. With cooing noises and a gentle voice, I impart the hard news they have to ‘bear with’ that little bit longer, the shearer will be here soon. As I stand in the pens surrounded by the flock, I feel a deep sense of acceptance. The smell of penned sheep, the snorting sounds as they take turns to muscle through the crowd to check me out. I have their trust. Today it is shearing. My heart hurts, for in a month I will break this trust irrevocably as I lead them onto the truck to take them to market. This will be my first time to market, I am an utter newbie emotionally and by experience. I’m reassured seasoned farmers, good farmers that invest much effort and care into their animals, suffer too. What is the best path to take here? Take comfort in that they have lived good lives (very good going by their condition in these hard times) or stand here and own the act of betrayal.
I realise I have to do both.
A ute pulls up outside.
Onwards. The shearer has arrived and there are kettles and motors to start, wool packs to set out and sheep to pen up.
House build remains at a standstill as our energies are consumed by the farm. This was always going to happen, wasn’t it? You start to build your dream home, then it morphs into your dream life. We could just stick to building and completing the house and then move onto creating the gardens and then the farm enterprise. Some folk follow this trajectory. I guess I had a fear we would end up looking like a square box in the middle of a grassy paddock, utterly out of context. So the garden, especially the kitchen garden, was always a concurrent project with the house build. I guess the farm enterprise was the unforeseen part, the desire to work our land, rejuvenate paddocks with livestock and then manage the livestock. And now here we are, living our dream life with a partially built dream house. What an unexpected turn of events. Don’t say I did not warn you!
pics by Em Callaghan @Emcallaghan1
Garlic crop is finally finished. This year’s new varieties and growing processes definitely took longer to bed in – but in nonetheless. The wicking beds will prove to be bigger than us and our garlic crop. As I worked them it dawned on me their value in enabling those with restricted mobility to realise a produce growing enterprise. Especially for those who are looking at losing their rural livelihoods and lifestyles. It is not the same as farming land, more like soil science, without a tractor.
The kitchen garden is full of fabulous green stuff. It is producing spinach/silverbeet, rocket, coriander, lettuce, lemon thyme, parsley, rosemary, sage (barely), brussel sprouts, kale, and broccoli. The broad beans, peas, cabbages, and cauliflower continue to grow well, responding to the cooler weather. The carrots, or rather what is left of them, dare not put on any growth in case they attract grazing sheep. I know there are other crops to plant before winter is out, however, there are plenty of brassicas and broad beans coming and there is only so much space. For the bees the wallflower, rosemary, and salvia are flowering.
The beehive is struggling and I fear a grim outcome. Having missed our window of preparations to ‘winter the bees’ the colony has shrunk dramatically. We can only hope it is large enough to stay warm over winter and wait until spring to confirm our suspicions. Once things start to warm up there are punnets of English and French lavender (Lavandula angustifolia and Lavandula dentata), sea holly (Eryngium sp.) and salvia (Salvia sp.) to plant.
May/June Book List
Free time to read has been a rare beastie and often lost to much-needed sleep. New reads were via e-books. The most notable book was “Normal People” by Sally Rooney. I could not put it down, I felt the characters to be whole and their relationship engrossing. I am a sucker for succinct dialogue and this story delivers.
I get up every morning determined to both change the world and have one hell of a good time. Sometimes this makes planning my day difficult.
April has been an intense month for the 2 folk, the dog and the tractor. Thankfully none of it to do with the Covid-19 pandemic. So I guess it is all very relative. If it was not for this pic of a batch of Easter buns I’d have forgotten it happened.
It has been a struggle to find the peace of mind to sit and write about our adventures this month. Initial drafts sounded like a litany of unexpected events out of our control. The 2 folk, the dog and the tractor have been at full throttle. It got me thinking about how our lives operate at a certain frequency, like a steady heartbeat, and then out of no-where (or quite deliberately), we experience times of extreme oscillations that seem to tip us into the realms of a racing heart and breathlessness. The Stoics suggested our stress at such times is due to our refusal to imagine the worst and prepare ourselves mentally with strategies of acceptance (note they are not advocating risk mitigation strategies). I concede we prefer to spend our down time saying “cheers!” rather than “if the bank forecloses who needs a finished house”. So daily operations continue to be conducted at a steady jog, whilst juggling raw eggs blind. And then there was April. And suddenly we have run a marathon at a sprint. Yet the Stoics walked everywhere, calmly.
Nothing happened on the house. The lack of development is a hard reality to accept, especially given how knackered we feel at the moment. But the house represents only one aspect of this new life we are creating. April is the start of the garlic planting season. This year the fledgling garlic enterprise dominates our energies and attention. We persist with building wicking beds, understanding and correcting the soil, planting and planning a perpetual growing programme across multiple beds that represents a whole new stream to the business. Not so long ago we only planned for a single harvest of garlic bulbs to cure, now we plan to grow multiple garlic products across year round harvesting. Seriously, when did we cross the marathon starting line…what happened to feeling calm? What was that about acceptance…?
We continue to learn what our priorities are in these uncharted times. Our priorities have shifted seismically since we started building our house. This year has really brought home our order is humans, animals, plants then house and material possessions. And yet it was the dream of an owner build that started us on this rural adventure. It would seem when you start out on an adventure you have to accept you can only see a few steps in front of you, otherwise it would not be an adventure. Otherwise you swap panic for calm.
Our beloved Ginger dog is fast asleep in front of the TV on her pile of mats (a girl needs choice) as we start to prepare for bed. Suddenly she bolts upright, retches to no effect, and then starts snapping furiously, bringing uncontrollable waves of frothing foam from her mouth. Then the convulsions start, violent, whole of body rigors, tense and all-consuming. Utterly out of our depth and shaking with shock at the sight unfolding before us, we grab her and work her body, rubbing and yelling at her to come back to us. The seizure is over in a matter of moments and Ginger comes round to find her two humans in her face. She is disoriented so we just keep talking and stroking her sweet face, desperately trying to restore calm. She comes good, but there is no solace in sleep for us then or now. We work through our limited options with the vets and the specialists. We are now sprinting on snatches of sleep because we are choosing to enjoy any moments we have with her. It is an odd sort of calm.
The sheep are calmly browsing the rosemary border outside the vegetable patch. They wear a feigned nonchalance yet undeniably hopeful look. I’m pulling the corn and some of the tomato plants to make way for the broadbeans and peas. We have plenty of perfectly shaped green tomatoes so I am inspired (my chosen response) to try making a Green Tomato Chutney. It works a treat. A silver lining for what can only be described as a properly crap season for us this year. The kale is thriving, but I suspect it just does that. Carrots, coriander, parsley, spinach, rocket, brussel sprouts, red cabbage, cauliflower, beetroot and broccolini are strong and healthy. There was even a handful of late season strawberries. Jobs to do include planting of said peas and broadbeans and regular liquid foliar feeds and organic approved pest sprays on the brassicas.
We may be powerless to alter certain events, but we remain free to choose our attitude towards them.
excerpt from “Calm” https://www.theschooloflife.com/thebookoflife/calm/
Much has happened out in the world beyond the confines of the farm of the 2 folk, the dog and the tractor. Plenty has been written about the current Covid-19 affected life we all find ourselves navigating. From us to you, may this little sojourn either break the boredom of your day or go some way to reveal a life that continues on, virus or no. And above all, may it find you and yours well and healthy.
In the last month, we have truly come to appreciate our life where rural distances easily accommodate social distancing measures to the power of 10; the owner-builder / rural life perpetual task list keeps us occupied to the point where boredom is a long lost state; the kitchen garden continues as a space to plant independence and the sheep keep grazing. Yes, we have felt the impact of the lack of certain key household staples. Co-Captain did have a moment of TPP, toilet paper panic. I on the other hand immediately launched into gleeful regaling of toilet paper stories and only stopped when I realised I was the only one giggling. Otherwise, we find our days continue pretty much as normal in this new world. We consider ourselves to be extremely lucky.
So onwards, with persistence and fortitude, and a whole lot of inventiveness and humour. These times may be the catalyst for us to rediscover values more fundamental than consumerism, like kindness to shop staff who still show up to serve us. I for one hope folk re-discover the blessing that is locally grown or home grown fresh produce. Fresh produce is more nutrient-dense so it stands to reason we might all become that little bit healthier. That’s positive! Not sure I can say the same thing about home brewed liquor…how long before grape vines produce a crop?
The kitchen garden is currently producing corn, tomatoes, kale, spinach, rosemary, thyme, sage, bay, chives, tarragon, spring onions, cucumbers, chilies and capsicums (albeit dinky). The seedlings of carrot, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, beetroot and brussel sprouts are planted. All but the broccoli and parsley were home grown from seed.
Jobs to do include planting out seeds of parsnip and broadbeans, harvesting & pulling the tomatoes, corn and cucumber plants to make room for the new plantings, and finding organic ways to keep pests at bay. The focus is to get as much in the ground growing, so dense planting, and established for the next 2 months of autumn. I suspect my next post may well be titled Bug Tales from the Kitchen Garden. I have to thank Phil Dudman from https://www.growyourfood.com.au/ for reminding me leaves of plants such as broccoli, are edible too. Start picking from the bottom of the plant to create light and space for the quick growing crops like beetroot/bok choy.
It is the end of a long couple of days, filled with hard graft, lots of shoveling and nagging concerns of a looming deadline. I am watching with bated breath as Co-captain gingerly navigates the heavily loaded tractor around the piles of building supplies, fenced off tree lots and tranches of protruding rock. All at the same time. He is maneuvering the first of many wicking beds into position on the freshly leveled gravel pad. The new site for the longview adventure that is growing garlic. The new garlic paddock is going to look a whole lot different to the last one.
We have talked about this scenario for many months now, especially as the drought took hold. From an initial conversation starting with ‘I wonder if…’ we have spent many nights researching wicking beds, the various designs, costing up the materials, time and alternatives. Finally, we agreed this could be a solution to our situation that supports our approach to farming and our values. It has taken a long time to find myself standing here watching this key moment. Wryly I realise it will be a long time before I’ve finished watching this process unfold too. It’s a start and that in itself is a joyous and inspiring feeling. 2 down, another 20 odd to go.
Oh it does look lonely. Yes, you would think if I was to self isolate a pile of books would be on my survival list. Sadly most reading has been online guides on how to disinfect ‘hot zones’ in your house, keeping up with online news reports as our worlds are quickly impacted by a highly contagious virus and more telephone conversations than I would normally accommodate.
I managed one novel, and I’m conflicted. Entertaining, well written, and evocative. Clearly written of a time when women were regarded quite differently to now. I still suspect the writer’s views of women were not entirely favourable, either that or the weather drove them all to murder.
Inside the word “emergency” is “emerge”; from an emergency new things come forth. The old certainties are crumbling fast, but danger and possibility are sisters.
Rebecca Solnit, Hope in the Dark
February is all about extremes for the 2 folk, the dog and the tractor. We started the month surrounded by drought-affected paddocks and an empty dam. We have finished the month with green fields and a half-filled dam, which is a really very good outcome!
We were lucky to receive rain in the last month, yet to be confirmed as ‘drought-breaking’ but enough to soak deep into the ground, our minds and hearts. The land is responding, plenty of new shoots everywhere, millions of seeds have sprouted and we are better for it. Sadly some folk did not receive rain, or the rain-washed their drought barren topsoil onto neighbouring properties. It is a heart-wrenching sight.
When we first purchased our place we were pre-occupied with the lack of trees and how to drought-proof our land. Then we learned the greatest carbon sink is grassland and one of the best drought mitigation tactics is to maintain groundcover, preferably deep-rooted perennials. Good groundcover protects the soil from the baking sun, supporting soil biology and structure, and improves soil infiltration which reduces runoff. Whilst we started our regenerative agriculture journey as the drought started, the fact we started means we stand a better chance of bouncing back strongly when the rains come.
Our first signal of having made a difference is how our runoff dam did not fill. At first, we felt really down as those around us had full dams. However, the benefit of the water soaking into the paddocks, where it is needed to grow grass to feed the sheep far outweighed the sight of a reservoir of water exposed to evaporation. The drought still bit us, we lost trees and more groundcover than we would have liked but our paddocks have grass growing and for that, we are grateful for the rain we received.
The house build has hit a standstill due to a lack of human resources and time. We have formally accepted we have a ‘bit too much’ going on at the moment. Time to contract out the non-house projects such as fencing and landscaping. Owner building is a constant and complex tussle between a need hierarchy of off-farm income to fund the house build, down-time to creatively solve problems, non-house focussed projects to inspire and bring balance (and keep us from becoming socially dull), and starting a farm-based enterprise to create the life we want. Of course, another solution is to reduce the number of things we want to achieve…leave that one with us.
The kitchen garden continues to teach. The rain we received encouraged the rosemary to burst into flower, giving deep relief and a lightbulb moment all at once. It has not flowered since a severe pruning (read slashing) back in February 2019. Turns out it was actually lack of water that kept the plants from flowering. In a bid to save water, the irrigation to the vegetable garden had been turned off and only key plants were being hand watered. The rain was enough to convince it to flower and the bees are happy and should survive the winter out here. Happy bees = happy humans.
We are currently harvesting asparagus (the spears seem to triple in size overnight), spinach, chives, spring onions, rosemary, thyme, tarragon, bay, mint, and the first cherry tomatoes. An alternative harvest list according to the sheep would include corn, tomatoes, capsicums and beans. It is tricky to tell if the corn is ready given the sheep enjoyed the silks, the silks dying back is a signal of when to harvest. We continue to wait on the tomatoes to ripen (such beautiful big GREEN fruit), the cucumbers and the kale. Jobs to do: plant carrots, plant additional brassicas (the seeds did not sprout so it’s off to the nursery for seedlings). The wicking beds are still standing idle due to intense sheep interest and insufficient protection – we do learn eventually.
February was a milestone month for our garlic growing business. We had our first market stall at our town’s agricultural show. We enjoyed it all and it was really fabulous to meet customers existing and new. We had wonderful support from friends who can take stunning photographs, who know how to retail and who kindly purchased from us. This level of engagement validates our belief in locally grown, human-scale food production as a way to ensure high quality and nutrient-packed produce. Sadly the pics don’t show co-captain, who managed to avoid every attempt at a record of his amazing efforts. It could not have happened without him.
February book list
There has not been much time for reading this month so pickings are slim. Not shown are the sheep practice notes on how to identify the plethora of parasites that activate when we receive rain, and how to manage grazing and feeding to ensure animal safety as the new grass shoots. Oh, you read it correctly, new grass can make sheep very sick. Rain has a deep impact out in the country and for those living a farming life. Far greater than we could ever have comprehended. It is life.
January, for the 2 folk, the dog and the tractor and many Australians, was the complete antithesis of this picture. January has been filled with some rather tense and heart wrenching moments. Just 3 hours away from our place in one direction and 1.5 hours in another, the stunning bushland and surrounding towns and farms suffered horrific bushfires. Precious animals in their millions perished, human lives were lost and dream lifestyles rendered to ash.
For us, at it’s worst, we were smothered in a thick acrid smoke as the fires burned out of control and the winds swept the smog into our home and lungs. It was hard to breathe and visibility was reduced to tens of meters, heightening the sense of impending emergency. High temperatures and winds meant any spark from any activity could put entire communities at risk. So for the day’s marked as ‘Catastrophic’ all we could do was steadily work through fire plans, clearing yards, watering everything, practicing SOPs, agreeing to fight or flee, what to take or what to leave. Lock down.
What happened on the East Coast of Australia was unprecedented but not unexpected – which only adds to the shock of what has occured. I think there is a whole generation of under 35s who have only now realised their political leaders are not to be trusted and will avoid accountability at all costs. I believe the magnitude of the fires is due to industrialised humans and our persistent misappropriation of resources resulting in global climate change. Fuelled by political and individual inaction in the pursuit of self interest and gain. My answer is to leave such creatures to eat their own young. We will continue regenerating the land, and support like minded folk; work harder to reduce our consumption, be it resources or possessions; and foster the concept of being a steward, not an owner of this remarkable planet.
We have signs of hope all around us too at the moment. Walking the paddocks and tree lots we discover trees thought lost to us have continued to hang on, even grow. Others have flowered for the first time, which initially we thought was due to maturity but now we wonder if the excessive smoke triggered the event. Even on a hazed out morning their beauty shines bright.
Kitchen garden pickings continue to be slim, for the humans anyway. Herbs continue to flourish but the rosemary is taking a hit as the house paddock sheep acquire a taste.The tomatoes, capcicums and corn are finally producing fruit, the herbs are powering along, the cucumbers are still pondering and the berries have outgrown their pots. Yet we have harvested barely a thing! The lesson this month is to start growing early by planting seeds undercover/inside where conditions are relatively stable. Then once the climate is right, strong, mature plants (or near as) are planted out to maximise the harvest season. This is not new, what took us so long (read 6 years)?
Seeds of 2 types of kale, broccoli, and brussel sprouts are potted up and have sprouted. The bees have not been forgotten with seeds of English and French lavender (Lavendula sp), Flannel Flower (Actinotus helianthi), Salvia (Salvia sp), Hellebore (Helleborus), Honesty (Nigella damascena), Globe Thistle (Echinops ritro) and Sea Holly (Eryngium planum) also potted up. To do planting carrot, spinach and late summer herbs. Plant out wicking beds.
One thing about lock down is you have time on your hands to read. Last month I read the first in the trilogy by Rachel Cusk. Exceptionally good writing. Just can’t remember a thing about the books as I was not present. Standout book, and a remarkable young woman, is Hashtag Authentic by Sara Tasker. If you need to get your Instagram geek on she is your go to library.
David Attenborough, A Life on Our Planet (film)
“The way we humans live on earth is sending it into a decline… Human beings have overrun the world…Our planet is headed for disaster, we need to learn how to work with nature rather than against it”
Last month the blog was short – be prepared this month is even shorter. The 2 folk, the dog and the tractor have found themselves living a repetitive blur consisting of:
Extreme weather, all things garlic, food/sleeping/reading
Days of very early starts to beat extreme heat and dust-laden winds. Water, the most precious of commodities at the moment, is shared sparingly between humans, animals, bees, and plants. The smoked out mornings are deceptively reminiscent of lovely overcast cool starts, the watered plants seem to be thriving compared to the drought-affected dry brittle grass of the paddocks. If we knew rain was coming our minds would be reading this differently, more positively. The pics show how dry, dusty and unforgiving our landscape is at the moment.
We did Christmas, plenty of gatherings around food and good folk, all of us preoccupied with the drought and fires. Such events are vital, if only to get you out of your head and to ask how others are coping, hoping to learn something from those more experienced and resilient. Only this is unprecedented out here, we have no point of reference.
It is with a sense of pleasure that 2019 comes to a close. Plans to post a ‘decade in review’, a reflective and thoughtful conversation about the start of our adventure here will have to wait. May the next year bring you and yours all your heart desires, rudely good health, great prosperity and grand adventures.
It’s garlic harvest, the month before Christmas and the 2 folk the dog and the tractor are going to keep this short.
For those who have followed along for awhile it is quite apparent we have focused our planting on trees and a vegetable garden. Only last month did we start to plant flowers in response to our bees arriving on site. So it is with great fanfare that we announce the arrival of our first peony flower. Oh the pride…
To put this in context; 20 or so plants salvaged from a friend’s house, 5 years in pots, fully exposed to the elements, watered by hand, tendered with truly no idea what to do and finally we see a flower from one of the surviving/thriving 15 plants. With the weather we have been having this is nothing short of remarkable.
The 2 folk continue to fence and create new paddocks. The tractor is key to this as we use the post hole digger attachment to install the main gate and strainer posts. Apart from the cost of materials, it is mostly about physical effort and that is always made harder when the weather gets a spike of crazy heat. The 2 folk don’t like working in 35°C and even the dog is happy to stay lounging indoors.
Rant warning: The hot weather has been accompanied by some terrible dry winds and walls of dust. The conditions are causing hundreds of fires up and down this side of the country. Exposing the utter lack of policy and leadership by the government and the impact of years of slowing gutting a primarily volunteer based fire fighting system in rural Australia. It turns out the equipment used by the Californian’s in their fire fighting season is shared with Australia during our fire season….only now the season’s are over-lapping. I don’t care if you call it climate change or the 100 year event or climate evolution – that is evidence something is changing faster than our government’s twee little political brains can handle. Rant over.
The kitchen garden has entered the ‘spring famine’ period. All the brassica’s, broadbeans, parsley, and peas have been pulled out and the tomato seedlings are in place. After a final bumper crop of broadbeans and PSB fresh produce we are now harvesting includes chives, spring onions, perpetual spinach, tarragon, rosemary, thyme and garlic. Great frittata ingredients. There is the odd cherry and strawberry but sadly the much anticipated blueberries were fried in the hot dry winds. Despite plenty of water it does not look like they will become edible. The homegrown capsicums were thriving – until about Day 2 in the vegetable patch. Something took them out and I am yet to work out what. The bush beans have flowers on them and the apples are still hanging on. A mixed bag that highlights the desperate need for us to build a more sheltered kitchen garden area, I’m thinking one with a wall around it…Tasks for the next month include planting the potatoes, carrots, cucumbers, basil, salad leaves and succession planting for the beans, capsicums and corn.
November was all about the harvest of the early season Turban garlic. Harvest time is a mixed bag of excitement and trepidation. Excitement to see how the crop performed this year (the whole bulb growing underground thing, you know?). Nervous because what if it’s a massive failure because something went wrong and the whole crop is affected….there are plenty of options to choose from.
Such is the life of any grower of fresh produce I suspect. This year, thankfully, the crop is looking much healthier than last year. The bulbs are larger, the plants seem more vigorous and their colour is vibrant. The lessons learned this year, keep me enthralled for the next attempt. As this is the 2nd year growing in this space, it is time to rotate the crop out to new ground. Another ball game again.
For now, there is good healthy crop curing in the shed. In a few weeks time I will harvest the mid season crop, the Creoles. No rest for the wicked, what fun!
Book list November
After years of purchasing multiple panettone this year we will make our own…AND purchase some! Thanks to Nadine Ingham’s beautiful book “Flour and Stone” filled with recipes from her bakery of the same name in Sydney. “Everything is Figureoutable” by the dynamo that is Marie Forleo is a powerful and practical call to arms, for yourself. But without doubt the stand out book in this list is that by Charles Mackesy, “The Boy, the mole, the fox and the Horse”. I came to this via his Instagram account, and it seems the English author has struck a chord with half the universe. Utterly touching, his drawings and thoughts on courage and kindness will stay with you.
From Charlie Mackesy’s book – one of many pages that resonate.