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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July

This July the 2 folk, dog and their tractor spent much of their time indoors.

Despite the odd day of dead quiet fog, our winter days are usually cold, clear blue skies with the nights turning a bone-chilling cold.  Hooray! Huge open fires just ’cause we can.

The stillness that creates the frosty night is riveting. If you happen to look up, the Milky Way seems so close you could dip your hand into its depths and extract one of its shiny stones to hold twinkling in your hand.  It’s all awe and humility at the SCALE of it all, just hanging there. (Roman ruins just don’t compare – see Junes’ blog).

Then the cold starts to seep in and the lovely deep moment is clocked, tagged with the comment, “wear a coat next time!” as you rush indoors.

I’m learning that out here, apart from dressing more appropriately, the dark has a different feel to it than in the city.  For me, it’s not so menacing.  In summer the night is a cool respite from the glaring sun, and in winter it’s a chance to notice a very deep quiet and have (oddly) rather clear night vision.

Now I take a moment.  To not feel the tyranny of the cold and the urgency coming from the warm house.  I enjoy the long walk back from the gate after seeing a friend off home, I take my time, look up, draw deep breaths and marvel at the universe and our very small, wee dot of a place within.

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Pic by Sky and Telescope

The discovery of a new tree is always exciting.  Let alone when you find trees alive and thriving presumed dead. We’ve always struggled with getting native trees to thrive at our place. Open grassy woodland is the proper term for our part of the world, open suggesting there were trees here once that created the structure for the space to exist. We have the ‘open’ part sorted – to the point of ‘exposed’.

To help with the rehabilitation of our land, we planted several red and yellow box (Eucalyptus polyanthemos and Eucalyptus melliodora respectively), on ridgelines and down low.  Several times.  We now have 4, where once there was 1, and to my utter surprise, we have another 4, where once there were none.  This last group was undeniably neglected by me as I was loathed to stomp through tall grass in the middle of summer looking for tiny seedlings to water.  Our only, and severely limited, claim to success is that we planted them in autumn 2014, watered them a few times and gave them some cover.  Then left them alone.  Having found these little beauties it’s all I can do to not start fussing over them.

Progress crawls millimetre by millimetre on the house.  An offhand comment of, “If we painted the walls maybe they won’t look so bad next to the wood paneling”, became my priority.  Sly work my friend.  Give me a task and I’m locked on and can’t let the beastie go until the task is delivered.  Have you ever seen Terrier dogs snap their heads to attention when some little fury thing flings past – yea it’s like that.  It used to be shoes once upon a time…

 

July Book List

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I learned quite a bit from the Stephen King book.  I’ve not read or watched his work before now and this book is personable, helpful, and irreverent.  Oh to have a scintilla of his skill.

You would have thought that with the weather forcing our focus indoors I might have managed a greater reading list this month.  Instead, I’ve been using the time to learn about taking photos, using Instagram and building websites for ‘longview garlic’.  My most creative and inspiring achievement was to translate an image I’ve had in my head for months now into my logo – which is so dead simple you might well ask, creative achievement of worth?  I love it and I did it all by myself #progressnotperfection

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It’s my logo!

Lots of photograph practice produced these pics which will get some use in the next few months, more so on my Instagram site, #longview_garlic.

 

Last word…

We all need warm happy rays at this time of year.

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As the years pass, I am coming more and more to understand that it is the common, everyday blessings of our common everyday lives for which we should be particularly grateful. They are the things that fill our lives with comfort and our hearts with gladness — just the pure air to breathe and the strength to breath it; just warmth and shelter and home folks; just plain food that gives us strength; the bright sunshine on a cold day; and a cool breeze when the day is warm.

Laura Ingalls Wilder, Writings to Young Women from Laura Ingalls Wilder: On Wisdom and Virtues

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June

 

June was all about travel for us this year.  I held true to the maxim: Life is for living, blog later.

Yet how to impart our experiences without it turning into ‘slide night’?  Do you remember such events? To think we once all expected a little presentation from the travelers on returning home!

So what follows is a snapshot, with minimal musings.

First stop France, which was all warmth, sunshine and good food.  No sightseeing, just sitting and soaking it all up.  Lots of eating, new tastes (a cheese and a champagne in particular) and happy days.  We started in Epernay, where champagne is available everywhere and at all times, so that helped us to refocus our energies on relaxing after a hectic start to the year. On review of our pics, I clearly did a good job of drinking the evidence – not a glass in shot.

Then onto Paris where it was all walking, gardens and cafes.

 

 

We pilgrimaged to the Louvre.  I’m clearly in house builder mode as I seem to have identified the things I like in a Palace, the pared back, raw material look, not very royal… just like in this painting of Napoleon by Jaques-Louis David, late 1700’s.

 

 

Then onto the UK, the main reason for this trip.  3 weeks of visiting family, long rambles in the countryside, getting to know a quintessentially English town, observing for the first time the totally different light on a UK summer evening and a long boat (canal boat) trip that rejigged my appreciation of time.

 

It was amusing to see the appropriation of the telephone box for so many useful reasons other than a telephone.  My favourite was the community book exchange.

Last stop Rome, but with only 24hrs, this visit was only ever going to be a ‘taster’…. so I ate gelato at every opportunity.  Our wandering range was very limited.  Consequently, my lasting visual memory is that of ruins, fountains, reclaimed ruins … and SCALE.

The ancient buildings of Rome were clearly built to last many lifetimes, and to make lifetimes seem a brief, insignificant blip in consequence or meaning. The scale of these buildings, in size and through time, highlight the irony of a world ruled by omnipresent gods and religion yet conceived and built by humans.

I stood, feeling time, and pondered on ancient Australia.  Last month I read ‘Dark Emu’ by Bruce Pascoe and couldn’t help but have a deeper admiration for the ancient works of indigenous Australians.  Ancient Australia makes ancient Rome seem positively mid-century.  If only gelato could be found at these spots too…

Finally home.  We truly loved melting back into our country life.  No cars, concrete and people (and gelato … sigh).  Just big blue sky, bright light, sheep and a quietness you just can’t bottle.  Then we heard a train, the pet sheep started demanding my attention and the generator cranked into gear as we bustled around to spark life back into our dormant house.  We went about the tasks in a jet-lagged blur but so happy that our partly built house was still standing, all the sheep still alive, the garlic still growing and our world still intact.

This seems to me the true effect of travel.  All the new thinking, learning, feelings and experiences all work to amplify the value of what we already have … I’d like to stop time now, please!

June Book List

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At its deepest level, travel can assist us with our psychological education. It can – when approached the right way – play a critical role in helping us to grow into better versions of our normal selves. When it corrects the imbalances and immaturities of our natures, travel reveals its full potential to function as a form of therapy in our lives.

The Book of Life: Travel as Therapy an Introduction

https://www.theschooloflife.com/thebookoflife/travel-as-therapy-an-introduction/

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May


May has been a month all about preparation, travel, inspiration, and challenges.

I am keeping the language very short this month as I write whilst sitting on trains, planes, and automobiles. Instead, I have plenty of pics which I hope will convey our story. Oh and I’m in France and the UK and I don’t have pics to load yet.

This month I have been left basking in the glow of realising I’m surrounded by people who don’t want me to fail. After 25+ years of working in the corporate arena in which I NEVER felt this way, I’m left feeling a deep sense of support.

I travelled to Orange, in rural NSW, to attend the first My Open Kitchen Gathering.  A totally inspirational 2 days where I learned new skills and met some remarkable farmers and creatives trying to tell their story using social media.  Organised by the ‘hostess with the mostess’, Sophie Hansen, we listened, questioned, collaborated, ate and laughed on a range of topics, all designed to help us realise our aspirations.  The calibre of the speakers, panelists, and attendees was second to none.  Many of us are still coming down from the buzz.  I am re-affirmed in my commitment to source local crafts folk and producers.  I could make a list here of several folk I will now purchase products from, I mean I now know a Master Tea Blender – doesn’t that just blow your mind – that a young woman from rural NSW can achieve this international qualification and I can purchase my own customer blend of tea?

My key outcome was to realise an Instagram account.  My handle is @ longview_garlic.  If you want to see more pics from the weekend in Orange go to #myopenkitchengathering where way more talented folk have put up some stunning shots.

I mentioned to the official photographer Pip, from @photographybypip or http://www.photographybypip, that I had brought along some of my garlic to learn how to photograph it in the particular style that I liked.  I kid you not, I followed her around like a puppy, yapping away in awe and trying in vain to see what she saw.  In under 20 mins she secured a shot that I will treasure.  Post that nano moment with Pip I managed these shots:

Another skill to learn – but first, remember to actually take photos…

We did shearing day.

Shearing day is something I never thought I would experience, let alone be the one to organise and effect.  Clearly, you can’t own a flock of sheep, say you grow wool and not carry out this part of the process.  Having found myself in this situation, I note that to say ‘we are shearing’ is such a level of understatement only those who have done this truly grasp the situation.  I’m sure there are many professions with the same claim.

I’m now consciously incompetent at this wool game – but so very much in awe of the kind and generous folk who took the time to teach and work with me – they are so very unconsciously competent.  The skills they have are phenomenal and yet I never knew this until Shearing Day.  Humbled, grateful, lucky. Damn fine situation to find myself in.

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Up until last week tomatoes continued to feature in my veggie patch life. Especially now I have discovered a green tomato chutney recipe by Sally Wise. But I’m calling it now. I need the space in the patch for my winter vegetable crop of broccolini, broccoli, and kale. The other task was to prune the rosemary hedge around the patch to let more light into the space. With this plant, Tuscan Blue, it just does not seem to matter when you trim it – it its not flowering its growing so anytime works. Which is why its such a great plant.

It with excitement that we have progressed our wall lining idea.  We have invested in having a sample made up of the veneer wood panels we want to use to line the walls of our house. We have great respect for those who can install plasterboard proficiently – more so because we can’t. Furthermore, we are not fans of painting. So we think this will cover off on our inadequacies in DIY and add some warmth to the whole concrete floor, minimalist, big window look. We have gone for an Australian wood, Blackwood which does not seem to engender much love from the woodies in this world. I think they fear us being disappointed with its variancy in colour.

 

Book List May

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The list is looking a bit lean this month but thats because I’ve read some library books that needed to be returned before I could take a pic. Two in particular stayed with me this month. ‘First, we make the beast beautiful’ by Sarah Wilson and Kent Haruf’s book ‘Our Souls at Night’.  Sarah’s book is a first hand experience of how she manages anxiety, depression, thyroid disorders, all the while living a life I could not imagine having.  My good health is such a basic expectation that I would have to seriously reduce my expectations of it if I suffered any where near as much as Sarah. Kent Haruf’s book is simply a beautiful story on ageing and how human wants and needs are as vital at 70+ as they ever were.  His writing is like poetry and so very authentic.  And a word on Dark Emu because this has to be said, I did not learn this history about Indigenous Australians.  It’s vital reading for those of us who were taught they were nomadic and transitory – evidence from European explorers, pioneers and structures suggests otherwise.  Why we were taught what we taught – that’s a whole other set of cucumbers to pickle.

Last word…well I took a pic out of Sarah’s book as it so very much resonated with me and made me laugh at the same time.  May you have an anxious person in your life…

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April

Here at our place, April only hinted at autumn. ANZAC day is the “You won’t look like a wimp if you put a fire on now” day. But this year you would have received some sideways looks because the weather has been unseasonably warm and dry. If there is no rain, the temperatures are still above 25°C, no frosts and soil temperatures and moisture are more like those associated with summer – do we still call it autumn?

For me, a positive has meant the extra sunshine and warmth continue to keep us in tomatoes. I certainly don’t broadcast my positive read of this situation – it shows a complete lack of regard for the seasoned farmers whose livelihoods depend on key weather events. So I just keep preserving the tomatoes…

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Myth buster! Tomatoes do not need to stay on the vine to ripen. Pick with a blush on the shoulders and they will ripen within a few days. It means you are not battling pesky critters to get the perfect fruit.

My focus this April has been planting out the garlic patch. I have planted 4 varieties so far; Early Australian Purple, Monaro Purple, Italian Red and Flinders Island Red. In May I will plant another variety called Dunganski.

5 days after planting and the first shoots started to appear in the Early Australian Purple beds. As the month has progressed all the beds have started to shoot – highlighting just how tough and forgiving this wonderful plant is out here.

I have been having fun sheep training my small flock of 50 to come to me: rather than me having to chase them all over the paddock in long grass on foot, or train a dog or ride a motorbike. Its nothing new by any means but I am getting some funny looks from fellow sheep graziers when I mention it to them. I’m using a ‘Ship’s Bell’ and luring them with bales of lucerne. It’s a giggle when the boys come piling towards you, totally driven by anticipation, and how fast they slam on the brakes realising “crap it comes with that lady!”

With our focus on the garlic patch and the sheep, the house build has slowed right down. Despite this, the marvels of engineering are harnessed and on display with the deployment of the mini solar system to run the bore pump – automatically. That is to say, we have water pumping automatically into our storage tanks. Did I say automatically? If it were not for the high quality of our water, you would think we were living with city conveniences!

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Water on tap – automatically.

April Book List

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One last thing…

Gardening is cheaper than therapy and you get tomatoes

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