We know it’s winter when…

We know it’s winter when…we stop rushing to harvest the salad as early as possible before the sun makes the delicate leaves wilt and instead we switch to harvesting it when our hands have warmed up enough to have the dexterity to pick it! We know it’s winter when we pack away all our veggie shade netting and pull out the frost cloth to protect our delicate green leaves from freezing. We know it’s a dry winter when the skin on our hands is as cracked and dry as the soil itself and when we are still watering the vegetables in July (we would normally stop in April)! And we know it’s winter when we can take a holiday.

Things never stop needing to be done on the farm, we harvest and sell vegetables every week of the year, but one of the beauties of being in a business partnership is that you can step away every now and then and know that everything will keep on ticking and being cared for while you’re away.

This time last year we were just starting to prepare the ‘new patch’ with a run over by Dave Griffiths and his Yeoman’s plough. We grew our first crops on that fresh ground in summer and are now almost finished getting everything for winter and spring in the ground. The first caulis and brocs are ready for harvest and we may actually even get some brussel sprouts this year!

This winter we’re putting in our first rhubarb and asparagus crowns, cape gooseberries, and globe artichokes, which is very exciting. The thought of permanent rows of perennial edibles warms my heart. We’re also starting to put in some edible wind and roo breaks to protect our patch—pomegranates, citrus, elder flowers, and maybe even an avocado or two.

With the help of our lovely vollies we have also planted loads of spring flowering bulbs like daffodils, jonquils, irises, freesias and ranunculus. Just coz they’re beautiful and just coz by the time spring comes we’re all really hanging out for those bursts of colour to remind us the soil is warming up!

Grow well

Sas

What Will We Do Next?

As the reality of life post-orcharding looms large, Hugh and I spending a few days off the farm and starting to think about what comes next for us.

You’d think we’d have thought about this long ago, before we put this whole train of events in motion – and we did – but it was just theory back then, and now it’s about to become reality.

On 1 July, the Harcourt Organic Farming Alliance (HOFA) will come into being, and we’ll sign the orchard lease over to Ant. He’ll officially become responsible for growing the fruit.

In fact, we’ll still be helping him, not just in an abstract mentoring capacity, but hands-on, in the orchard and packing shed, at least for his first year of operation.

Our role in HOFA will be property managers, which means we’ll be overseeing the job of building new infrastructure (like staff room, toilet facilities, etc.), applying for and managing grants, and making sure everything runs smoothly so the important people – the farmers – can get on with their jobs.

I’ll also still be getting my hands dirty running the Heritage Fruit Tree Nursery with Sas (of Gung Hoe Growers fame), under the watchful eye of my dad Merv.

Add to that Hugh’s part-time editing job for the Asian Development Bank, and our various community service roles, and the week suddenly looks very full. In fact I suspect we’ll be wondering how on earth we had time for farming at all!

That sounds like a week’s worth of work, doesn’t it? Oh hang on, the main reason we wanted to put our succession plan in place was so that we could concentrate more on the teaching side of our business. Where are we going to fit that in?

Grow Great Fruit (our online organic fruit growing home-study program) is too useful to the world to stay small any longer. We always said our mission was to teach the whole world how to successfully grow their own organic fruit, and the time has come (well, maybe not the whole world, but we want to extend our reach much further).

So you can expect to see GGF grow in coming months, and you needn’t worry about whether we’ll have enough to occupy us!

Heirloom veggie surprises…

The beauty of growing heirloom varieties of vegetables is that it’s always a surprise. This week we cut open watermelons to find the flesh yellow…we didn’t plant any yellow watermelons, ripe canteloupes that were white fleshed…we thought we only planted orange ones…and we also harvested our first lot of beans that included yellow, purple green, and yellow with purple stripes. So much variety, so beautiful!

This time of year is nuts on the farm (do I say that every blog?). We are picking so much beautiful produce we haven’t got enough hours in the day to also be sowing, preparing beds for and planting out our autumn/winter crops. But we’re just trying to roll with it and stay positive. We can after all only do what we can do!

February veggie boxes were a hit and we’ve loved hanging out at the Theater Royal courtyard on a Tuesday evening while people come to pick up their boxes and shoot the breeze. It’s such a joy watching kids and adults alike with melon juice all over their faces and flowers in their hands as they trot off down the lane.

It’s now time to order veggie boxes for the month of March if you’re interested. Things to expect (although there are always a few unexpected surprises) are corn, beans, spuds, beets, herbs, salad, chard, kale, tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, melons, okra, onions, garlic, pumpkin, spring onions, capsicums and eggplant, phew! You can also add $10 of organic fruit to your box each week.

We ask for a month upfront payment and the boxes can be picked up Tuesday 4–6 pm at the Theatre Royal or Wed–Friday at the MAFG farm shop from 10 am to 4 pm. If you’re interested, check out the link to our online shop here:

https://gung-hoe-growers.myshopify.com/collections/produce

Another joy of working with heirloom, nonhybrid crops is the surprise of saving seed and replanting the next season. In amidst the planting and harvesting at the moment, we’re also saving seeds…next season will reveal what interesting cross-varieties we’ve accidentally created! Like this season’s freckles x salad bowl lettuce we’ve had coming up!

Grow well folks…

Sas (and Mel)