February

This February the 2 folk, the dog and the tractor were decidedly busy on all things NOT tomato related.  For the first time in 6 years, our February was not dominated by the tomato harvest and preserving.

The kitchen garden is producing well at the moment.  We clearly have a tomato forest, despite the new trellis system, with plenty of green tomatoes just on the cusp of ripening.  In the last 2 days of February, I’ve collected 1kg of our expected harvest of 20kg.  A year ago I noted tomatoes do not need to ‘ripen on the vine’ to improve in flavour.  Ripening indoors certainly takes the pressure off worrying about any insect attack.  The kitchen garden supports a small flock of sparrows, geckos, and lizards who feed on the known bugs in the garden. I provide water and real estate in return.  The generosity does not extend to the rabbit who has found the kale, just how do you remove this pest? Hopefully, once Ginger the Airedale terrier is back on free-range duty the rabbit will move on.

It is with much joy I can include a picture of my first ever triumphant cucumber flower (with a sister flower hiding behind the leaf – that makes 2!) and our first Cox’s Orange Pippen apple.  All previous attempts to grow cucumbers failed due to pest attack, lack of water, and wind snapping stems.  This tiny, and I suspect, way too late to fruit, flower gives me hope for next season.  Over the failed attempts I have learned cucumbers take much more water than you think and need plenty of protection of their main trunk.  I adapted some old plastic pots which worked a treat.  As I have not got past this point previously I am sure there are more lessons in store!  For the apple, this was the only one of 8 to survive to picking, on one tree of 10 (other varieties).  I confirm this variety of apple tree is tough.  It has survived years of insufficient water, bad pruning, and sheep grazing. Takeaways for me, water every day, don’t let fruit set for the first 2 years to establish the plant, prune well and keep the sheep out. This apple represents deep patience and looks so good…and I’m too nervous to taste it.

This year I found the time to hedge the rosemary border before it set flower.  This sounds at odds with regular wisdom.  However, there were no flower buds evident and our autumn is sufficiently warm to ensure a good amount of new growth and flower before winter arrives. Rosemary is a major food source for bees here during late autumn and winter.  Last year I felt pretty sick having to hedge the border during its flowering time, so much so that I did it bit by bit to give the hard-working girls a chance.  It dragged on a bit, to be honest. I hope this approach will avoid such a palaver.

Fresh produce in the kitchen garden this month includes kale, spinach, lettuce, spring onions, chives, parsley, tarragon, basil, the last of the peas, tomatoes, and rosemary. Plantings to progress are broccoli, brussel sprouts and peas.

To distract us from the looming black hole of no tomatoes, we have put our energies into fencing new paddocks off for sheep, attending sheep farm tours and eating our way around local shows.

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Scones with jam and cream – what else?

We had a great day visiting 10 local sheep farmers in the area for the Gunning leg of the Flock Ewe Competition (a friend of mine burst out laughing when they head this – I’m yet to confirm if its deliberate, which I highly suspect, or country charm).  What hit home is how different folk farm differently and it’s been a god-awful year for most of them. We saw plenty of sheep, all in pretty good shape given the drought conditions, and plenty of sheds, some centuries old and others modern monoliths.

The garlic paddock is under preparation, with the sheep now camping in the area where the new beds will go. Where sheep camp is where the manure and urine are most concentrated.  Along with mountains of collected manure, organic inputs such as vegetable compost and microbial inputs are my key method for developing our soils into rich dark earth teeming with microfauna and flora.

Planting plan this year includes cultivating the soil to a min of 40cms; heavily fertilise with sheep manure; add soil improvers such as EM1 microbial solutions, and vegetable compost; mulch heavily but ‘fluffily’; and water consistently rather than wait on mother nature.

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The best and worst 2018 garlic crop

I thought I’d show a pic of the best and worst garlic from my crop this season. It is disheartening when you get bulbs like the one on the left, but to give garlic its due, this plant, despite the lack of water, attack by Sulphur Crested Cockatoos, and insufficient nutrients, still managed to produce a bulb I can plant.  This is what they call a super clove.  Typically produced when a garlic plant goes into stress mode.  It makes the call to put all its energies into producing one clove rather than several tiny cloves.  If I plant this super clove out, in the right conditions, it will outperform a clove from an ordinary bulb.  So all is not lost – what a remarkable plant to grow.

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timber, scaffolding and in the background a wood working space – this is our living room

The owner-builder adventure continues with the delivery of the solid Blackwood timber we are using to surround our windows, door frames and the huge 4m shelf in the kitchen.  We have saved up for this for the last few months and to see it safely inside the house is a moment of excitement.  Does anyone else live with scaffolding and bundles of wood in their main living space?

Book List February

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knitting = audio books and podcasts

Audio book was The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, which I thoroughly recommend.

It was a real mixed bag this month.  On recommendation from ‘others’ I read the books written by Melanie Benjamin and I was left underwhelmed.  I enjoyed The Wife by Meg Wolitzer as the voice of the female protagonist is very believable and authentic (now there is a word for the times).  I’ve included Flour and Stone by Nadine Ingham (again) because for the first time ever I made choux pastry, as in profiteroles and eclairs. Oh yes, let me repeat, I can make profiteroles and eclairs, albeit funny shaped and sans cream.

I have (finally) discovered podcasts and the one that has caught my heart is Dispatch to a Friend by Annabelle Hickson and Gillian Bell. What I like about a podcast is that it is not like the radio where you have to suffer the comments by other listeners or topics on subjects from the far right or left of politics, or politicians for that matter! A key reason for why podcasts and audio books are now firmly in my life is that I have worked out I can knit whilst listening to them. How I revel in the double indulgence.

Last word

The strongest love is the love that can demonstrate its fragility – Paulo Coelho

 

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Paddock walk finds. The strength and fragility are so evident.  Can you see the lambswool in the nest?

 

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January

This January was full of milestones for the 2 folk, the dog and the tractor.  Another shearing day under our belt, progress in the house build and celebrating our first year of storytelling here on this blog.

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I’m listening.

Exactly a year ago, in the first post, I showed a picture of zinc coated kitchen cabinetry – bespoke in all the glory of the word.  Time is a benefit to the owner-builder, not in an economic sense, rather the ability to take time in deciding design and materials. With the chance to experiment and explore the more unorthodox solutions and get creative in the process you too could end up with bespoke cabinetry. Below are pictures of the kitchen today, along with the construction phases, finished with the originally designed wood cabinetry. There are quite a few marine notes to this landlocked build, only out here we joke about how we may have mislaid the water and the boat but have plenty of wind to sail a house.

I am amazed at how much warmth the natural wood has added to this central space. After many test pieces we settled on a native wood to avoid painting construction wood, the use of plastic wrapped cabinets, high maintenance marble or highly reflective glass.  Wood seemed to address these issues, was a medium we can work in with easy access.  The next step is to add some greenery and personal touches that make cooking, sitting, discussing and working in the space all the more pleasurable.

We have experienced the hot version of every season this month.  Summer started bang out of the gates with multiple 5 day runs above 35°C – blowing the average number of 5 days in summer out the window. Thankfully these vile runs of heat have been punctuated with much cooler misty moisture laden mornings and afternoon downpours (read: heightened garlic curing anxiety).  I note I only seem to photograph the rain days and not the high searing eye blinding heat days.  In context, I never thought I would view a day of 33°C as a ‘cool change’ but either my new found climate adaptability or a new level of insanity is finally at play.

We had our 2nd shearing day just after New Year.  Planning starts at least a month out in order to fit in with various crew commitments. Excluding death, fires and rain, the date set is the date you shear.  This time it was the first of the 40°C heat cycles for the month.  Even with a very early start, in an attempt to beat the heat, we were grateful this was a small flock.  Shearing at this time of year was a new experience and with the time spent ensuring water, shade and safe cartage for the days leading up to shearing day we don’t plan to repeat the timing.  It’s stressful on the human and woolly folk.

Shade from mature trees is what we crave at our exposed site during these extreme weather events. Trees provide both shade and airconditioning on hot days, something all animals need. We don’t have enough mature trees throughout the paddocks and around the house despite our planting efforts. Without sufficient shade, the extremely hot weather makes rotational grazing difficult to implement in our regenerative practice.  On a long list of limitations, we have yet to resolve having only 2 mature shade-giving trees on the property.  These 2 trees need to cover 3 months of potentially super hot weather and accommodate 4 months rest between use.  After grazing the first paddock, let’s say for a month, it is ideal to rest this paddock for 4 months to ensure sufficient regrowth of pasture.  After the first month, the sheep are moved to the next paddock with a tree and once this month is up, where can they go?  They can not go back to the first paddock, as it will risk over-grazing the plants.  Perhaps in a year with normal rainfall, the pasture may have regrown more quickly enabling us to reduce the rest period – but that is not our experience this year.  So we face opening up untouched land with very long grass and juvenile tree lots.  Read plenty of fencing work and taking the tractor out into the paddocks in hot dry conditions.  Something we always try and avoid to reduce the risk of starting a fire.  Machinery, dry grass, and an unseen granite rock are all you need to create havoc.  This requires another vehicle loaded with water shadowing the tractor. A tense day for all. One day, after much more experience and sound practice, our place will be a rare haven in times of heat stress.

The kitchen garden is ever evolving.  The perennial rhubarb and tarragon are well established, the chives, spring onions and parsley are looking good.  I have planted more peas and am trying cucumbers again.  The tomatoes are thriving.  This year I am trialing using a trellis system for the 2 varieties, San Marzano (Italian plum) and Rouge de Marmande (French beefsteak).  The idea, from “Backyard Bounty” (ABC Organic Gardener, ABC books, 2017), is to reduce time spent staking, tying and thinning the bushy plants.  I usually plant 20 homegrown seedlings in a highly fortified fenced off area in the vegetable patch. I do have to grow more than I need to compensate for humans, inquisitive sheep (fencing testers extraordinaire) and failing irrigation.  Ruthlessly any plants that don’t make it into the secure zone are given away.

Book List January

I mixed it up this month, with a long and engaging listen to “A Gentleman in Moscow” on Audible and some print books.  The audible book was over 17hrs of listening. I listened to it at night before bed, forcing me to sit still, like TV does, but with many more benefits.  It definitely extended the experience of the novel because I am confident I would have read/gobbled the book much faster, but not managed the Russian names anywhere near as beautifully.

2019 01 audible book, a gentleman in moscow by amor towles

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With all the hot weather I have really struggled to put myself near any heat source such as a BBQ, gas hob or oven.  My reading list reflects my attempts to produce satisfying raw vegetable dishes, with the book by Nadine Ingram vicariously feeding any baked goods cravings. In the Resilient Farm and Homestead by Ben Falk, I came across an interesting suggestion that we need to move from being ‘less bad consumers’ to ‘producers’ in order to change the world from mass consumerism and industrialised farming.  Putting utopian ideals aside, he suggests growing your own vegetables instead of purchasing organically grown vegetables, harvesting rainwater and cycling it on your land rather than buying a water saving device and so on.

Last word

Worrying pretty much all of the time isn’t a sign that something has gone wrong, merely that we’re properly alive.

School of Life, cards on resilience 2018

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The relief you feel when something that’s definitely foreign in your boot reveals itself to be benign

 

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December

December in which the 2 folk, the dog and the tractor work around the rain and a Christmas full of comfort and joy.

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Rain is a good thing with caveats

The thing about rain and rural life – well it’s just not straightforward as “Yay, it’s raining!”  If you have a farmer in your life, drill down on their thoughts on rain, and not just the polite conversation assimilation commentary.  I’d also ask you withhold judgment if they seem a bit, well, Pollyanna, here’s my take…and my experience is embryonic.

When we lived in the city rain was really only seen as something that might impact on whatever social/sporting event we may have had planned.

When we went rural as a ‘lifestyle choice’ rain became something that was good because it helped the grass grow.

After a while, we realised the grass is really pasture and needs more than rain to grow, so we brought in livestock to help improve the soil, which along with the rain, improves the pasture (see earlier posts).

So here we are, 5 years on, with livestock, garlic crop and pasture to grow.  Rain is a mixed bag now – what matters is the quantity, type and timing.  Yes, we celebrated the December falls, however, it cost me my peace of mind.

I fretted because rain and warm weather brings out the bugs, debilitating sheep and causing fungal disease in garlic to become rampant. Last year I lost a significant portion of a stunning garlic crop to rot whilst curing, a lesson that is protecting this year’s crop beautifully.  This year we had our first experience of fly strike on a sheep.  Timely action and an experienced farmer means all is well. Positive outcome yes…however, I was left struggling with thoughts of ‘how to dispatch sheep humanely’, and this has not been resolved. This is one of those skills you just dread having to acquire, but to be able to do so humanely and respectfully is something I aspire too, which sounds most odd to say.

Furthermore, if it had not rained, well then other concerns would have filled the void and cost me my peace of mind! Perhaps there is something else going on here?  See one last thing…

Our sheep husbandry skills continue to grow.  After the last drenching session, the 2 folk were wormed thoroughly but significantly the same thing could not be said about the sheep.  More ended up on the two of us than actually down the necks of the sheep.  However this session, either the sheep were more comfortable, or the few lessons paid off, but the job is done, done well and in good time.  So with the slightest of swaggers, sheep drenching – √.  Never going to nail shearing but happy to settle for the ‘taking part with enthusiasm’ certificate.

We had our first experience of foraging, which I posted on Instagram @longview_garlic  about finding a summer gold bounty of apricots. It is a story of disbelief, joy and a happy place…but not gluttony. Mind you I was not the only one to spy the bounty and I think local folk moved fast to secure fruit before a travelling stock group made their way past the tree.

Garlic beds are empty – harvest 2018 is complete.  I thought I would be pulling the last of the garlic in Jan but after flashing around some pics and listening to those with more experience than me, this year the late season garlic got pulled a month early.  Once again it’s a mixed bag but I’m told it’s very normal to expect a distribution of bulb sizes in a crop.  I am grateful I had the wherewithal to plant a ‘test bed’ of the late season crop as I had no experience growing it.  The testbed crop seriously outperformed the paddock crop and clearly showed me the soil in the paddock beds needs much more work to bring it up to scratch.  This will take me years to perfect. I still felt seriously deflated at the lack of brilliance in the paddock crop – classic reality check, again so very grateful I started a MICRO enterprise.

Christmas was a really lovely event.  Gentle, quiet and indulgent involving well-behaved humans and dogs, special food and simple decorations that hit the mark beautifully.  We avoided the hectic Christmas rush, gift shopping was via online at rural stores, other gifts were handmade so could not be rushed and food shopping was whittled down to specific farmers market stalls or purchased locally at farm shops. The pic of the real tree is more for posterity. It’s my way of marking progress on the house because if you look at the walls in the background, they are ready for lining with the Blackwood panels.  Last year they were bare corrugated metal.  Progress is progress and patience is torturous! It is also the first year I got my way and tree decorations were kept to fairy lights only. Simple and uncomplicated.

December booklist

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Books in printed form

The book list this month is in printed form because the audible form did not get a turn. I’m trying to work out how to incorporate listening to a book whilst still getting things done. The potential is properly inviting but I’ve not adjusted.  Same with podcasts. I suspect whilst driving has potential if the internet connection is maintained and I can avoid earbuds.  Working around the house will require earbuds as I’ve noticed noise from any activity interferes with the wondrous world being created for me. The simplicity of just picking up a book is being redefined. When did it become important to multi-task whilst reading? I’m not sure my brain can do that.

One last thing

We will never rid ourselves of anxiety entirely; our best bet is to try to give ourselves slightly more valuable things to worry about.

School of Life, cards on resilience 2018

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I like how the sheep calm each other with touch and closeness. If in need of comfort just bury your head into a friend and go zen…

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November

This November was all about starting the garlic harvest for 2 folk, the dog and the tractor.

Garlic harvest This year on the advice of older and wiser commercial garlic growers we delayed our harvest by 2 weeks.  It was a long wait, harder to take as we entered the last month of spring here, when rain is most likely to occur, and you try not to pull garlic in wet conditions.  We persevered and I think our garlic will store better.  It was a mixed result for the bulbs this year.  The drought conditions have resulted in smaller bulbs than previous years.

The learning curve has been very steep.  It’s quite a different ball game to grow garlic out in the paddock compared to in the veggie patch.  I imagine this is the case with any fresh produce.  This year we take away a long list of lessons covering every aspect of the growing cycle, from bed preparation through to hanging the garlic for curing.

All good produce relies on good soil.  Good soil actually takes time to create.  There are no fast fixes, spreads or sprays that will encourage organisms and biota to take up residence, work their magic and multiply in abundance if the conditions are not suitable. Don’t get me wrong, we have not finished throwing humus, compost or fertiliser at the garlic patch.  You can’t grow something in soil without it extracting something from the soil that will need replenishing.  Our lesson has been it’s never too early to start feeding the beds, with anything, preferably organic, you have to hand.  So no sooner have we harvested the garlic that we are now starting to prep the beds for next years crop.  This year I will apply more compost (our household bokashi and garden compost), more fertiliser in the form of biomungus, humic and mineral inputs and seaweed and fish emulsion products.  We have not invested in a wormery as we had a bokashi compost system in use, however this year I think for every compost application I will apply worm castings, in the hope we might encourage more soil biota.  Another trial will be spraying a molasses solution, a sugar hit for the soil.

One of the big leaps forward for domestic growers and consumers alike is the awakening to the joys of fresh garlic.  Given the breadth of this land, Australia is in a rather remarkable position of being able to enjoy fresh garlic all year round.  Until now we just did not know it, why?  For my 2 cents worth, because the supermarkets and the government funded overseas suppliers had us accepting cured garlic as the only option.  It stores and travels better – for a fresh food this is gold in commercial terms – just not for the consumer.

With the uptake in interest in fresh garlic, we found ourselves prepping the bulbs before harvest officially started.  Spring or Green garlic is a delicacy that has such a short window of availability it gets snapped up.  But as growers around the country start to plant a wider variety of garlics there will be more opportunities.

Fresh garlic has a colour and smell to it that is truly delectable.  Softer in flavour when raw it is so very versatile.  The whole bulb is used, there is no need to peel the cloves as the skin is still fleshy and has not turned papery, as it should do when cured correctly.

 

Book List November

This month I discovered Audible, a service that reads books to you, what luxury!  Although I will say I read faster than the person speaks, it is a fantastic way to immerse yourself into a book.  I listened to ‘Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine’ by Gail Honeyman, read by Cathleen McCarron.  The novel is set in Scotland, so to hear it read with a Scottish accent really put me in the novel.  Wonderful story, deeply insightful, laugh out loud funny and moments of tears and pain.  The central character, Eleanor Oliphant is so rich and complex, you fall in love with her and look at your friends with a bit more kindness.

Final word

You aside, no one is carefully keeping track of your idiocies.

School of Life, cards on Resilience 2018

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Run lambsy, run!

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October

This October the 2 folk, the dog and the tractor were discombobulated by the wind.

September heralded the start of spring, we knew where we were headed, jobs to be done and a clear upward plane of activity. Then October came and picked us up and dumped us on our heads.

October is one hodge podge of weather.  It confuses everybody, plants and animals.  A week of warm weather followed by cold snaps that are so hard you’d think that snow was due (as it did in 2012). Persistent winds, as hinted at by the numerous windmill farms in our area, take on a more howling demeanor. Perhaps it’s because the trees and house are still growing that we feel so exposed. I wonder if passing traffic look at our place the same way I look at a remote house or a cliff-edged monastery and marvel at the resilience and persistence to build in such a remote and exposed place. Or maybe they just think we are mad.

Without the shelter of an established garden, walled courtyards and windbreaks our place gets buffetted heavily by the winds. So we adapt to the persistence of the wind. Is the ability to continually adapt a method of resilience? Being out here on an exposed site does remind you of what you can bear, even find happiness in, survive and not feel so fragile.  The gale force winds unsettle me, but as time goes on I almost miss it if I can’t feel a breeze of some sort.

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Facing the wind is the only way to keep the hair out of a girl’s eyes

Self-build note for folk designing their house – windows/glazing are a tricky component.  You need the ability to adjust the window/door in response to the weather.  You need to really understand how wind will move through the house (and heat and cold).  From our experience prevailing winds do work to cool a place down however, they can also take out papers and lamps on tables, blow out gas cooktops and move outdoor furniture not concreted down. So I am hanging onto the hope, that once I have built my outdoor space, my indoor space will not feel so exposed.

The kitchen garden is powering along sans sheep and hares. The late planted broadbeans have sprouted, and the beans and peas are thriving.  This year the orchard apple trees actually have leaves and flowers on – in addition to removing the sheep we have been diligently watering them and voila! The sticks have sprouted into life.  Bless the hardy beauties. Gooseberry (English) and blueberry bushes were planted into the orchard.  We’d entertained the idea of putting a chook run in the orchard but now the berries are in this won’t be happening.  Berries have roots close to the soil surface so don’t take kindly to the efficient scratchings of busy chooks. Finally, the strawberries have multiplied and are flowering well given they are in pots, I just love berry season.

Book List October

Book list Oct 2018
Clearly the kitchen garden is dominating my mind

Not sure why my reading dropped off this month – perhaps it operates like food – the warmer weather shifts the appetite.  I suspect it’s more obvious, sunshine gets me outside so I don’t read as much OR I’m just so pre-occupied in keeping things alive and upright from the wind!

I have been busy on my @longview_garlic instagram account.  Probably more learning how to work it rather than any amazing creative photo story at this stage.  Instagram takes a lot of reading time.  I’m genuinely inspired by the work people create and the stories of building authentic lives for themselves, their families and communities.  I essentially get to read several short stories a day and craft a meaningful response.  Ha! It sounds suspiciously like English writing homework….only way more relevant.

Trees – Number 2 on the 100goodthings list

Enough words, let me just post some pics of wind and trees, and weather confusion.

Final word

Life is like a wooden table.

One mark looks like a disaster; a huge number of scratches lends the whole an almost pleasing patina.

School of Life, cards on resilience 2018

 

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September

This September the 2 folk, the dog and the tractor got busy.

Spring energy is a powerful force and often I don’t quite feel ready for what it entails.  Blossom by the bucket load, baby animals gamboling, bees all around, seeds surging from beneath the earth, and weeds flourishing overnight.

I’m ordered into action according to season dictates.  So this is what it means to “live more in tune with the seasons” – getting your butt kicked into gear by a tsunami of nature.  This as my ‘To Do’ list is whipped out of my hand by a gust of wind…uh huh.

Seasonally here, spring decrees vegetable planting.  Over the last little while, we’ve had a wonderful sense of satisfaction from eating food we grow.  Successes with tomatoes, broad beans, corn, broccoli, kale, silverbeet/chard, potatoes, spring onions and rhubarb because they are tough.  Sadly brussel sprouts continue to elude me and the cucumbers were mauled by something.  I have no idea what happened to the asparagus. Broad beans grow really well but we lost the latest planting when discovered by the sheep (along with the kale and silverbeet).  I’m audaciously trying for another late planting as we really like them.  All of this is done on a 4 year rotational plan with most of the bed currently planted with a fumigant crop (of course garlic!) to treat the soil.  So space is at a premium and I’m effectively squeezing in plants, and testing the packet instructions.

I’ve started the tomatoes, basil, and beans under cover and others in situ (peas, spinach, lettuce, and other salad greens). It’s the in situ seedlings I am battling to protect from sheep, birds and hares (not bunnies, but small dog sized eating machines).  The books are full of how to manage snails, slugs, bunnies, possums etc so it never occurred to me I would not have these too.  It must be a gradual process as word gets out about a new restaurant in town and generational knowledge is laid down.  Oddly I found a lone asparagus spear, standing tall and untouched just yesterday.  I promptly snapped it off and ate it on the spot – grand!

Next, plant more trees.  This spring we have planted 8 Nyssa sylvatica (Black tupelo) along the inside edge of what was a dam, an advanced Parrotia persica (Persian witchhazel) and 2 fig trees into the orchard, so far. (no pics ’cause they look like sticks!) We have a way to go before we plant enough trees to change our landscape here.  We plant a mix of native and exotic.  Why? Native trees to support the co-evolved flora, fauna and soil biota. Exotic trees for their decomposing ability to build and replace soil lost to earlier farming practices. Regenerating our land requires multiple approaches and stages of progress.  Currently, it’s improving biodiversity above ground and in the soil. We do this by using sheep to graze and tramp down the monoculture of our paddock grass to encourage other grass species, forbs and shrubs to grow.  The sheep also fertilise the soil encouraging organisms and increasing carbon content.  All this and the tree planting help our land retain the little water we receive over a year (approx 620m – but not this year) making us (land, livestock AND humans) more drought and flood resilient.

Big lesson this year.  Let the plant do the work for you.  They are remarkable engines of growth so let them grow.  For years we purchased small tube stock, grew the plants in the nursery to see if we liked them and then re-potted each year.  So come planting time…well it takes a tractor and 2 folk rather than just a shovel. Call me slow off the mark but I’m finally down to my last 5 big trees to get out of pots and into the ground, then we are converting to a ‘buy tube stock – plant tube stock’ regime.

Book List September

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School of Life Bibliotherapy sessions rock! Revisiting ‘Slow’ and ongoing cooking inspiration from Rick and Hetty.

September 1 may mark the beginning of spring but it also marks the launch of a book I co-wrote with a friend from my local beekeeper’s club: Growing Beautiful Bee Gardens in the Southern Tablelands of NSW: a guide to plants that attract bees and thrive in our region.  Collaboration is such a positive creator of energy and support.  I’ve realised (see May’s entry) that even though I like to work alone, I thrive in collaborative environments.  Not something I ever thought I would say.  When you are surrounded by people who want you to succeed I suspect it’s easier to perform and give generously back.  Does it then follow that because collaboration is such a positive way to work it’s only to be expected it will produce something wonderful? My proof?  A useful little book of 50 diverse plants for folk to grow, to promote healthy bees and hives, suitable for townsfolk and country folk alike.  I’m still grinning in disbelief a whole month on.

Last word

In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.

Margaret Atwood

 

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I’ve finally done it – convinced the sheep to eat the rosemary…this could be a mistake.  Note how they stay in the shade to avoid the bees?

 

 

 

August

This August the 2 folk, the dog and the tractor all took things a little slowly.

What do I mean by slow?

Normally I would go on to explain, quote others etc about the term ‘slow living’ and how it involves ideas such as intention, simplicity, mindfulness, balance and connection. (FYI, pg 257 of Brooke McAlary’s lovely read “Slow”).  But not this time.

I mean all the plans we had for August seemed to take longer to unfold than we expected. I’m not sure if other owner builders feel the same way about the time it takes to complete buildings.  Always longer than you plan, even after years of practice and a Master who is a quantifying savant.

It has taken a while but we have come to embrace, even enjoy, this time lag.  It gives us a chance to use the half built space to see how it functions.  Function is an important focus of this modern farmhouse.  We use the time to dream, trial and work out the finishes that work best for us in this space.  We try for robust, resilient and beautiful materials. This year we have trialled treated zinc metal cabinet doors and Tasmanian Blackwood wall panels. We love the wood so much we are ordering more panels to change out the zinc doors and looking at where else we can use them.

Obviously this time lag does require us to eschew design trends, fashionability or hot ideas in favour of timeless classics.  Attempts to incorporate the latest look would only end in interior design armageddon given it would be delivered some years post the trend ending!

We are building a house we hope will sit well in its environment – not like a flash dunny in a paddock. Deploys materials that are robust and acquire a patina that comes with age – that’s aged wood as opposed to gauged plasterboard walls. Demonstrates the concept of space – a few good things in their place.  Acknowledges how ultimately nature is the best source for decoration inspiration – natural materials and a limited colour palette to offset the mass of human made concrete.  So we have large picture windows to show off the landscape and seasons, we use wood to soften the hard functional flooring and use natural light to create a sense of space.  We love comfort and generosity so I’m thinking our few furnishings will take this on but formality and highly decorated won’t really work for us.  There are no layers, what you see is what you get.  This is our take on a (comfy?) minimalist aesthetic and it feels such a luxury to build our home to fit our lives.

Last month’s book list showed the tome that is Call of the Reed Warbler by Charles Massy.  I finished it this month and it did help get me off my butt to put into practice some of the learnings written about.  The book describes how most learning has come from folk hitting extreme scenarios that forced them to act differently.  Their generosity in using their experiences to educate folk like me, before we hit walls, is beyond measurable.

Nurture the land, save the people is the primary message I took away from the book.  (This is not new!)

We have more trees to plant, native grasses, forbs and plants to encourage, soil to improve, biodiversity to evolve before we will feel we have improved this patch so that it can start to nurture us, and our animals (stock and native) and our garlic.  This month we are deploying the sheep to graze and manure the site for next season’s garlic planting.  This gives their existing paddocks time to rest and grow as the soil warms and rains encourage new growth.  Rotational grazing (cell grazing) is where we are starting and seems well documented as a means to encourage biodiversity in plants, animals and soil biota.  All of this supports self organisation of the land to better manage undesirable elements such as water runoff, erosion, Christmas beetle larvae, internal sheep parasites and weather extremes.

But we are no experts!  This is our approach to regenerate our land, make it more productive and produce a better quality product (wool and garlic).  Piece by piece we are starting our journey to develop a holistic management practice.

At the start of August the 2 folk and the dog attended the annual Australian Garlic Industry Association workshop and conference.  It was all things garlic and a band of dedicated inspiring growers with piles of information to share.  From large commercial operators through to teeny tiny boutique folk like us.

Garlic is a multi faceted, generous and robust plant, I suspect a lot like its growers.  It is no longer the white poncy fumigated bulb languishing on the super market shelf.  Nor is it the jar of preservative packed odd colour mush I grew up with.  Oh no.

Photos courtesy of Australian Garlic Industry Assoc

Garlic is purple, stripey, blotchy, pink, bronze, hot, spicy, pack you a punch, linger longer than socially acceptable warm your soul herb of amazingness.  The milder flavour varietals for the raw dressing will always be around, but it seems Australia wants a punch of flavour and colour.  As the market speaks so the growers plant.

It will take a couple of seasons before such complex garlic will be readily available, but for those eagle eyed of you, limited quantity fresh bulbs from this harvest should be available at farmers markets and online.

August Book List

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Last word

Twenty years from now you will be more dissappointed with the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.

Mark Twain

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Sunset view from home 5 August 2018

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