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)

 

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.