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

Ngatha (food) for my soul

For the last 8 years I’ve had the rare and special privilege of visiting a remote community in northeast Arnhem Land called Mapuru, and getting to know the community there. As my body readjusts from daily tops of 34° to the central Victorian winter frosts again, I take a moment to reflect on my limited understanding of the relationship to food and place that I have experienced in the community there.

When we talk about ‘local food’ in the cities and hipster circles, it’s like it’s a new concept, something funky and edgy and somehow morally righteous. But we are seriously behind the times! If we want to learn about truly local and sustainable food in this country, then we need to learn from the indigenous people of our country who hold 60,000 years of existing experience, research, management and knowledge of local food.

The majority of the food we grow in Australia today is food of another land and climate. We’ve adapted them to grow here and suit the exotic tastes of our ancestors’ original homelands, but there is a huge diversity of food plants that already grow here and are native to Australian soils and climates that have been cultivated and eaten for thousands of years.

I can’t speak for my ancestors’ relationship to plants, growing and food because I am so many generations removed from them and that land, but my sense is that in modern times our relationship to food and the growing of it has become fairly superficial. Its about mass production and selling, about nutritional values and calorie counts, markets, transport and storage….

Over the years as I’ve been tip-toeing through the mangroves, sitting by the estuaries and walking through the forests around Mapuru, my adopted mothers, aunties, sisters, children and cousins up there have shown me and patiently tried to teach me another way of relating to each other and to Country. For them there is no separation between distinctions of plants, animals, places and people. Everything is connected in a vast and intricate web of kinship and relationship. An example of this is walking through the pandanus forest with my sister, axe in hand, bare feet stepping quietly and gently over the dried spiky leaves on the ground and her telling me gently how I am related to that place: “This place, you call it waku (son/daughter); that gunga (pandanus tree), you call it mari (grandmother); that green ant, you call it dhuway (husband); and that dog, he’s your ngapipi (uncle).”

After 8 years of getting to know my generous, patient and good humoured adopted family in Mapuru, the kinship system is something I am only just scratching the surface of understanding. It is so vast, all-encompassing and deep that we really have nothing to compare it to or understand it by in our Balanda (western) brains. But what I do understand is that it immediately connects every person to every other person and every other creature and thing on the planet. That connection is one of kinship and with each particular kinship relationship comes certain responsibilities and ways of caring for that family member. This includes the food that is eaten and the way it is cared for, cultivated and shared. It has ensured that over 60,000 years the land has been intricately cared for as a mother, sister, aunty, brother, grandfather, and uncle and in turn it has provided food and shelter to countless generations.

If I started calling carrots my grandmother and cabbages my child, most people around here would think that I was a sandwich short of a picnic, but I think there is some fundamental wisdom here for us to learn from. If we could even begin to just treat one thing—the soil—with the nurture we would give our own child….imagine.

Sas

Gung Hoe Growers
69 Danns Rd Harcourt