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

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

Solitude and a reset…

Well its been an interesting fortnight, that’s for sure! How is everyone out there? The season has definitely started to turn—I see fat buds waiting for their chance to burst and the golden blush of the first wattles across the land. I (Mel) have been away in NSW, in a little bush shack. I had the company of two dogs—Scallywag and a kelpie named Pickle—an arrangement of chooks, bellbirds, bower birds, whip birds, wombats, poetry, the beach and a hearty fireplace. Oh! and my new favourite tipple—Maidenii Vermouth.

This year has still had its ripples from the years that came before it and I knew I needed Mel solo time. I was surrounded by green and lush and life, as well as slow, quiet, and a chance to really rest and give myself some time  (I’m aware this opportunity is a big privilege and precious and view it as such). I also had moments of exploration to nearby towns for op-shops and coffee and record hunting, discovering old friends and new. I sat with solitude and ate it up, and have taken away learnings, not the least being how important it is to care for yourself and even one step further—give yourself love (might sound hippy-dippy, but it’s straight down the line true!).

This poem penned by Judith Wright (Aussie lady yiew!) was the stand out to me of how the seasons around us change, but also how the seasons in ourselves change in their own, right, and beautiful time. As with nature, it is within us…I hope you can take a moment and read the words of The Cedars.

On the way back to Victoria I had an unfortunate meeting with a corner, wet roads, and some trees. It wasn’t a good experience and we’re (Scally and me) totally lucky we’re all ok. The towtruck guy amongst others said I “shoulda bought a lottery ticket” that day… So arriving home shaken and sore, we hit the ground running with the Harcourt Alliance vision day (not as flouncy as it sounds i promise you. We worked hard!) and it was bloody amazing and reassuring how each individual around that table was thinking along the same lines as their neighbour and as it continued the whole way round. An alliance of farmers and primary producers standing tall and strong. It was awesome.

And so I’m left here, at the end of another week (but what does Friday mean really….not much for those of our ilk) with a feeling of almost a reset. It’s weird, and I’m not holding my breath, but coming back and working in the dirt, surrounded by the possibility and people involved both here in Harcourt, but all over Australia, I have a renewed sense of gratitude that growing food is what I get to do. It’s bloody hard work, and we’re not there yet (who is though!) but for now, this is absolutely the best.

May your buds burst at just the right time (even if it doesn’t seem like it to you—trust them, they know better than us).

Mel x

Gung Hoe Growers
69 Danns Rd Harcourt