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

Drip, drip, drip…

Maths isn’t my (Sas’) strong point. Start talking numbers to me and very quickly my eyes glaze over as my mind wanders to a ‘happy place’. This week however Mel and I had to force our brains through some serious mental rigours in order to nut out a plan for our irrigation system in the new patch. With the expert (and patient) guidance of Bill, the regional rep for Toro (an irrigation manufacturer) and lots of head scratching and number crunching, we have (hopefully) gotten to the bottom of some of our existing irrigation woes and worked out a more precise and efficient set up for the new beds.

There’s lots to take into account, like the pressure in the main lines, the flow rate of the water, what else is being watered on the property when we are also watering, how many lineal meters of drip line and how many litres per hour per meter they put out, which all determines how we work out the best set up….are your eyes glazed over yet?

Our next big step for spring (now that we’ve relocated the hot house out to the farm and set up an automatic watering system in it) is to start installing the new irrigation system. When that’s done, we will be able to plant out all our green spring babies from the hot house safely knowing all their thirsty needs will be met.

Last year we had real issues with all our crops not getting consistent and even watering. We had patchy germination on our direct seeded rows and patches of thriving and struggling crops. Now that Bill helped us troubleshoot what the possible issues are, we’re looking forward to a more productive summer. Fingers crossed.

Another element of the new irrigation plan that totally rocks our world is the inclusion of a fertigator. This is a simple device that operates without electricity but using pressure differentiation in the irrigation lines to mix liquid fertilisers into the irrigation lines when needed.  We will no longer have to administer Seasol and compost teas, watering can by watering can to every one of our rows, the fertigator will be able to pump our earthy concoctions through our irrigation lines while we weed! Amazing.

On other news…don’t forget we’ve got our Gung How Growers open day this Sunday 24th September from 10am to 12pm, with a tour scheduled for 11am. There will be cake and tea and scones and jam, seedlings for sale and a chance to pre-order your garlic plaits. No eftpos available so come with cashola. Hope to see you there.

Grow well…

Sas and Mel

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