Hindsight is a wonderful thing…

Hindsight is a wonderful thing. Well, maybe not in the moment when you look back and realise that if you had done things a little differently, or with a little more forethought, you might have saved yourself a whole lotta work. But there’s always next time, right?

We’re sure there was a really good reason we got Dave with his tractor to form up the long beds in our new patch in winter. We just can’t really remember what the reasons were. Maybe we had more ambitious ideas about actually planting into them in winter, or sowing a green manure crop that we’d dig in in late winter to feed the soil ready for spring and summer crops. All good ideas in theory, but actually what has happened is that all those beautiful long clean rows, carefully prepared in June, have grown a bumper crop of beautiful weeds and now in preparation for our spring plantings we have to deal with them! In hindsight, now would be the perfect time to have our once-off visit from Dave with his machine to form up the new beds, turning the beautiful lush winter weeds into the soil, green manure style at the same time… ready for mulching and planting out in a few weeks for summer.

With our glass-half-full brains on, the weeds that have grown in the new beds are a perfect, diverse green manure crop, just waiting to feed our soil. But 630 square metres of land is a lot to dig by hand! Our new patch is also critically low in nitrogen (amongst other nutrients) and so the last two weeks has seen us shift 10 cubic meters of organic cow poo by wheelbarrow onto the new beds and spend 10 hours straight on a rotary hoe and 10 hours straight on a whipper-snipper to slash, turn, and tuck all those weeds and cow poo back into the soil. This time without the big tractor!

Using a rotary hoe is not our preferred method, as over time and with overuse it can create a compaction layer in the soil. But coupled with our deep broadforking every time we plant a new crop and encouragement of life in the soil, we figure we can get away with it, just this once!

Mel and I are fairly well spent after the last few weeks, but all the babies in the hot-house are coming along nicely and will need planting out soon. So, clearing out the last of our spring crops, feeding and mulching the beds ready to receive them is the focus of the next few weeks. The patch is gorgeous at the moment, flowers everywhere…even some very early sunflowers that sowed themselves in the paths at the end of last summer and survived the entire winter. Ripe tomatoes can’t be too far off…Love it.

Getting Up Close and Personal

If you follow us on Facebook, you might be seeing a bit more of our faces in coming weeks, because we’ve started doing Facebook Live videos.

Thumbnail of this week's Facebook Live video showing Katie talking about apricots in spring
Thumbnail of this week’s Facebook Live video showing Katie talking about apricots in spring

We need to put in a little disclaimer right at the start—don’t expect anything too professional, we’re definitely better farmers than we are videographers, and this first video is a bit ropey, especially the sound. We didn’t realise what a difference a bit of wind would make and it sounds like there’s a jet engine firing up in the background, but we’ll get that sorted before we do the next one!

So, why are we putting ourselves through the mild torture of videoing ourselves regularly when we could be quietly going about the business of growing organic fruit?

Doing a home visit to help someone get the most out of their fruit trees
Doing a home visit to help someone get the most out of their fruit trees

Because even though we’ve been teaching organic fruit growing for a few years now, we got a sharp reminder last week about how many people out there are still not aware of why it’s so important that as many people as possible learn how to nurture the soil and grow their own food.

It’s easy for us to get complacent because we’re often surrounded by people who ‘get’ that our food system is under serious pressure, so we were pretty shocked and saddened when we attended a function recently where one of the drawcards was the ‘sustainable’ food supplied for morning tea—every item was imported, out of season, or highly processed! And there was no organic produce at all! What was worse was that the organisers knew they had organic growers present and made a point of letting us know they’d put some thought into the food. Their version of ‘sustainable’ was to include some fruit and a couple of salads alongside the highly processed deep-fried offerings.

We could have wept…

But, instead, we went back to the drawing board and thought about what else we can do to help to get the message out there about the many, many benefits that come from growing at least a small portion of your own food organically, as well as sourcing food that has been grown in a regenerative farming system. People need to understand that these simple choices are incredibly powerful, and can make a real difference to your health and well-being, your family budget, and the health of the planet. And we decided we need to do it in a way that’s easy for people to access, free, and not too hard for us to produce. Hence, Facebook Live!

We’re probably also influenced by a dinner we had recently with some close friends who told us—almost in passing—that they’ve decided to pull out their fruit trees because they’re sick of putting in all the work of looking after the trees and not getting any fruit year after year, and why should they bother any more when they can just buy beautiful organic fruit from us?

Well, we were honoured, but also deeply saddened. These guys are great gardeners, take a lot of pride in it, and produce almost enough vegies to feed their family all year. But they were giving up on their fruit trees. They’d never joined any of our teaching programs because they didn’t want to muddy the waters of our friendship, they hadn’t wanted to impose on the friendship by asking for free advice, and we hadn’t wanted to offer unsolicited advice either. But we know they’re “that close” to getting a great crop from their fruit trees, there’s just small gaps in their knowledge that mean they’ve been missing a few small crucial jobs each year that have made the difference between success and failure.

Katie getting some spring jobs done in the orchardSo, we’re making it personal! We’ve realised we need to step it up a notch and provide a heap more information that touches people in a different way to get our message out there more effectively. We want to bring people onto the farm (without actually bringing them all onto the farm…) so you can see for yourself in real time what’s involved with producing your food, and that with the right guidance it’s really not that hard!

Look out for us in coming weeks and months—you’ll be seeing our faces a bit more often from now on (and please don’t judge us on our lack of video skills!).

Hugh standing near the fruit trees doing a site visit

Nutrition, open day, and more…

Well, don’t you love how nature runs by its own clock, not our boxed squares of dates? Spring has certainly begun to unfurl but with the hail, threats of snow, and icy winds you’d never think it!! We are watching with wonder the splendour of bulbs and flowers breaking through the grey skies! And brassicas happy with life as you can see…!!

Sas and I are busy out at the patch weeding before it gets out of control, but mostly turning our attentions to the new patch that we had made up and Yeoman ploughed in autumn, thanks to Dave Griffths.

We need to make sure the soil has as much as it needs, so when we put the plants in there, they have enough food to grow us delicious tomatoes and tasty eggplants, and corn, melons, lettuce, potatoes…the list goes on (but I’ll leave some as a surprise 🙂

Our soil is old, no wonder really, and its still got some structure, but not very many of the essential nutrients and minerals that the plants need. It takes time to build soil that holds these nutrients and getting it to a point of balance where they coexist on their own is our long-term plan and what we began in the first patch from day 1. And so it goes with this new piece of land too, but we don’t have as much time! So we have been researching the best ways to feed our soil with local, organic (or to standard) materials…this is tough!! (Steve Solomon’s book The Intelligent Gardener goes into way more detail!)

I (Mel) am most excited about installing some kind of fertigation system that we install at the main tap of our irrigation lines. Very basically it means we can administer liquid forms of goodness to the entire area with the turn of a tap, rather than by hand via a watering can. Hunter Harvest’s Kat is making us an appropriately strong dilution of her collected rabbit poo (very high in nitrogen) tea. The rabbits names are Alice Cooper, Willie Nelson, Norman, Jerry, Daria, and Quinn. They eat organic feed and sometimes our weeds and live an incredibly happy life.

​There’s also other activities brewing up here in Harcourt – of course one of the major ones is this! Please share it high and wide! (see picture below!)​

We are also trying to get ready for a bumper season by putting the call out for rubber bands! We don’t want to buy them as we can’t find any rubber sources that we ethically agree with and they take forever to break down…currently we’re using Mel’s Mum’s stash but it’s quickly running out! SO, we’re happy to take any you don’t use off your hands! We have set up a jar at ‘The Local’ as a collection point (thanks legends!), let the re-using, recycling begin…

Finally! Gung Hoe Growers are having an open day! Sunday, 24 September, 10 am-12 pm. We’re hoping there’ll be some blue skies we can sit under, share a cuppa and cake as we meet each other looking onto the patch and apricot blossoms! It will be your chance to pick up Chuffed perks, see your perks in action (not naughty, promise! we’ve painted our row signs!) and preorder garlic for Christmas as well as order T-shirts and grab any left over teatowels. WOW! Please click here for all the details.

Now that you’re fully informed, go outside and feel the fresh wind on your face and breathe deep.

Grow well, Mel & Sas x