Curious visitors…

I only know of one person who doesn’t like garlic…and I truly don’t understand why!! Garlic has been the first thing we’ve planted in our market garden as it’s hardy, the moon was right and it doesn’t need intensive irrigation like lots of other veggies! It also got us going!!

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The garlic we planted we had both saved from our previous plots last year.  The best, the fattest, the juiciest heads and now there are four different varieties getting their roots strong and their green tips shooting up towards the light.

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Since planting the cloves we have had several visitors check out the new installation at Mount Alexander Fruit Gardens: several four-footed creatures and a few hoppity guests.  We didn’t want to block out the gorgeous view, but we wanted to keep the new green young ‘uns somewhat protected…so we decided to build a fence. Upon doing so the green shoots are undisrupted (stay away cockatoos!) and we have hopes of growing many a thing round, up and across the wire.  Some veg of course, and some flowers, which we hope to sell to a local flower artist, Organica Botanica.

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We are still being blown away with the support and belief our community is showing us…even though the garlic is 6 months away, the lettuces, kale, broccoli, carrots, radishes and many more will soon be in the ground and then (fingers crossed) on people’s plates. We can’t wait! Thank you for walking this journey with us.

Mel and Sas

Unsung farming heroes – Week 9 RIRDC Rural Women’s Award

Just recently, I’ve been lucky enough to meet one of my local heroes.

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This is Margaret, one of the early apple tree growers in our district. She and her husband had a very famous nursery that specialised in heritage apples, and they grew more than 500 varieties. Imagine that! Margaret has more knowledge about apple trees in her little finger than I will probably ever have. She also made a huge contribution to the preservation of heritage apple varieties in Australia. Sadly it got too much for them, many years ago now, and the collection was lost.

We’re now planning our own heritage apple orchard as part of our organic production on the farm and, luckily, she was happy to meet with me over a cuppa, share her experience and – best of all – give me permission to use some of their vast knowledge in the fruit tree database we’re slowly accumulating on our website.  She also reluctantly agreed to have her photo taken and used in our social media, as she didn’t feel her story was at all worth telling!

One of the things I’ve realised doing the Farmers Markets Building Communities project is that my district, this state, and probably the whole of Australia (if not the world) is full of people just like Margaret. They’re the small producers, quietly going about producing food and food plants, preserving old ways while incorporating new methods and new technologies, sometimes running very modest businesses but bringing a tremendous amount of passion, knowledge and skill to their work and to their customers at the farmers markets, every single day.

Family farmers are this country’s unsung heroes, and I want to tell their stories. That’s why I’m doing this project.

Growing up…

The search for an appropriate patch of land to start our organic market garden on was a long and interesting process in working out what our priorities — actually our non-negotiables — were. It was also a great way of meeting like-minded people in our community who are supportive of more food production happening here and are willing to offer their own land to meet this end. Along the way water and soil became obvious limiting factors in this region. We found there to be no shortage of generous and enthusiastic people willing to let us grow on their land, but without soil or water, our dream could not be realised. Soil we were willing to build (the legacy of fertility is such a great gift to leave behind) but there is no growing without water.

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Whilst we were mid-search for our dream patch, we decided to take a small, symbolic and meaningful action towards finding it. Without large financial capital available to us we are learning to be resourceful, creative and to reach out to our community. Healing Well, a collective of health practitioners based in a converted house on Mostyn St, we noticed, happens to have a fantastic (empty) glass house in its rambling garden. The folks there were so welcoming and encouraging of us using their hot house to start raising seedlings for our ‘patch to be’, that we decided to plant our first round of seedlings in hopeful anticipation of finding that patch. Only a week later we started discussions with Hugh and Katie and the rest is history!

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We are choosing to plant our seedlings in small but regular batches based on the cycles of the moon. With small regular sowings of seeds in the hot house, we plan to stagger our transplanting and therefore spread our harvests out over a longer period. Use of the hot house at Healing Well has helped keep a warm and humid environment to germinate seeds, particularly helpful as the days get cooler and shorter. Our very first seedlings of radish, salad greens, brassicas and root crops are almost ready to be transplanted out, and our garden beds are ready to receive them…fingers crossed the elements are willing to cooperate too!

 

Grow well

Sas and Mel