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?

 

 

 

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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Gallery

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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March

March is a month of change this year – which is a good thing.

In the last week I reached my goal of 30 bottles of tomato sauce.  The crop has peaked in flavour and size so I use the smaller tomatoes to make chutney.  This chutney is tangy with loads of herbs and spices.  It supports a cheese board admirably, but for me, I think it is unsurpassed as the flavour hit in a toasted tomato chutney and cheese sandwich.  Grand reward for hard work on a cold day.

Remember the garlic patch pic from last month?  It’s amazing the effect of a bit of rain, albeit a very small amount.

You definitely start to evolve an opinion on how much and what sort of rain you require.  I’m definitely a fan of the 2 days of steady drizzle, the sort that resembles the curtain of rain that seems to permanently delineate Durham County in the UK.  Rain days like that are gentle and regenerating.  Out here we tend to get the 5 minute dump and drench type rain.  With a metal roof it is deafening and we find ourselves riveted into silence. And then we find an excuse to race out and ‘rescue’ something just to be part of the chaos. One day we will have an outdoor undercover area to watch from, raise a glass of vino and be very adult about it all.

The garlic patch is underway.  We have created the first planting beds and added some Ag Lime as all the growing guides state ‘garlic loves lime’.  Broad anecdotal statements aside, our soil analysis results show we need to adjust our soil ph.  Tomato, Potato – same outcome (GhostBusters II movie). The 10m x 1m beds will take 1,500 cloves of 5 different varieties of garlic.  Planting is scheduled for 5 & 6 April – the first best planting period for root crops after the full moon.

March Book List

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I finally got my butt to the local library and enrolled then came home, jumped online and ordered a pile of books to read over Easter.  I actually think it is better than having a voucher to your favourite bookstore.  In those instances you are really careful about what you spend the windfall on – at the library absolutely no control required.  It was open slather.

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Sheep and dogs – a comedy everyday

 

Greater confidence begins with a ritual of telling oneself solemnly every morning, before heading out for the day, that one is a muttonhead, a cretin, a dumb-bell and an imbecile. One or two more acts of folly should, thereafter, not matter much at all. http://www.theschooloflife.com

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Gallery

January

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Quietly crisping up

Its serenely quiet and the gate has started to shimmer in the heat of the day by the time I take this shot. Through the gate I see grass turning golden and as the land dries out we start to watch the horizon for tell tale smoke plumes – where is it, how far away, which way is it headed; and welcome rain clouds – how far away are they, which way is it headed, will we be lucky?

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Bespoke zinc doors – bless Kevin McCloud

Oooooh I am starting to see some design influence coming out in our build. To be honest we are totally rubbish at interior design, we build and create spaces, filling and decorating them is far from our fun zone. These doors represent weeks of thinking, discussion and learning a new craft. This is the fun part of building our own place, we can take the time to work things out and adapt ideas to our skill set. And for the first time I’m getting a glimpse of an end picture pieced together from years of scrounging ideas from magazines, tv shows and online pics; of a large kitchen with deep colours and blended materials where no one thing stands out and the light does not hurt your eyes pre morning coffee.

View from West paddock back to house build.
Summer morning

This is one of the 2 trees on our place when we purchased. We have since planted about 250 and could easily plant that number again. The sheep are fantasitcally undiscerning between native v exotic in their inquisitive tasting of the leaves. We are becoming masters of building tree guards and sadly only by trial and error. At this stage I’m grateful they have not resorted to climbing (a la Shaun the Sheep pyramid) to gain a leafy morsel.

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Longview garlic

You know when you start playing with something and its good, then an idea sprouts… and then you realise you could make it happen you just have to start. Beginning is all it takes.  I have no idea of the outcome, it will be imperfect as odds always are.    This is Longview Garlic. Not only did I grow it, its edible and I can grow more.  I’m a producer of garlic.  Now that was not in the original game plan.

Number 1 on the 100GoodThings list

Books.

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I don’t watch much TV

 

“Let all your efforts be directed to something, let it keep that end in view. It’s not activity that disturbs people, but false conceptions of things that drive them mad”

Seneca, On the Tranquility of Mind, 12.5 Source: The Daily Stoic, 366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance, and the Art of Living by Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman

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