Rain, weather and this thing called life

In our funny white calender today is officially the beginning of summer! (Lots of cultures have way more than 4 seasons.) And I’m sitting here listening to dingoes howling (I live near the dingo farm) and waiting for the onslaught of the forecasted rain. I am not a weather reader, but I can be dubious about forecasts and try to take them seriously and with a grain of salt…if that’s even possible! We are meant to have lots of rain – a friend from Melbourne was saying that ‘the weather people’ were saying it was all of summer’s rain in one dump—eek! Here in central Victoria we don’t complain about the rain, except every few years when it floods, and then we think of our friends further north of the country and remember that we all have our own challenges. Mould, for example, and rotting is something we don’t struggle with a major lot here in Harcourt and Castlemaine!
Farmers are always depicted as whinging about the weather and, speaking for myself, it’s something that is a continuous rollercoaster.  It’s one of the reasons farming could be seen as an extreme sport (but probably never will)—its risky, even when you’re perfectly prepared (but surely there’s no such thing—human error and chance can happen to the most dilligently prepared).
I feel like Sas and I have breathed some of that risk and disappointment these last few weeks. We left the garlic in probably 1 week too long, it was a joint, conscious decision as it was hot and dry—1 more week wouldn’t hurt and the pressing issue was the tomatoes, eggplants, chillies, and caps. The time was right and if we leave it too late we won’t get fruit until the frosts come back! As we are up-scaling this season, everything carries with it a little more risk because we are investing more into everything. If that sounds weird, just imagine you are planting your backyard full of plants plus the next 3 down the street. Not only are you increasing numbers, you’re increasing probability that some will get knocked down by roos, eaten by rabbits, snapped by cockies. Also you need to buy triple the amount of stakes, and irrigation and figure out storage space and make sure you give all the babies love, not just the ones directly out of your back door. But you haven’t increased your time, because you aren’t able to do that until you harvest your increased number of plants… Am I making sense?
It’s all about scale.  The reason Sas and I have extended the patch is because we are aiming to find the right scale that works for us both financially and quality of life wise.
Ok – so back to our garlic pulling versus planting tomatoes choice. It was the right choice! We planted tomatoes and then the rains came a few weeks back. Perfect for newly planted seedlings that we are expecting a lot from this season. Not perfect for garlic that is already a wee bit overdue. Not to worry – we pulled them a few days after the rains in a hot week, they were beautiful! Massive thanks to Thea who not only helped plant the garlic back in April, she then harvested them with as full grown cloves too!
Because of the upsize (we actually did plant more garlic than last year because we skipped the Russian garlic this year), dry space with lots of air has been a bit tricky to find so the garlic can cure properly. Especially important once the garlic has begun to open inside their little cloves. Sas had the brainstorm of creating a hanging roof—brilliant! She silliconed the holes in the tin and we lay out the garlic we couldn’t fit elsewhere above our heads. Then it was hot and dry and some rain came that we didn’t foresee (this equals hot and steamy) and there’s nothing we could do but grit our teeth.  Upon bunching the garlic this week with our generous helpers — thanks Lydia, Elaine and Ingrid!! —we found that quite a few bulbs have been ruined.
Never fear, thanks to the quantity there’s still lots that will be good to go for xmas, it just feels a bit devastating when you’re in the space of growing more but you’re not equipped enough to deal with it. Probably a rookie error, probably also just what happens (and something that we as the new community of growers forming out here with the help of Katie and Hugh, are aiming to fix). Also garlic is a good, easy enough crop for us to grow out here in Harcourt. So I’m trying to not feel too ruined by it… and as I sit here listening to the rain on the roof gently falling I know it is good and that there ain’t much more I can do ‘cept breathe and be a good human to the earth and those around me, and keep trying my best at this thing called life.
Grow on and well,
Mel x

Summer is a’coming…

Hi all, and a pinch and a punch for the new month – we can hardly believe it!  I (mel) keep thinking we will stop having enough produce, but as the season has/is turning all the beauties keep swinging. Finally we picked broad beans in abundance and the sugar snap peas (named Frank) are delicious and sweet, and the green garlic is delicious, and our eyes are bulging at the onions swelling in the ground.
It’s nice really, cos everywhere else we look we see the plants bolted and flowering and all the jobs that we haven’t done yet staring us (beautifully colourful and buzzing with bees, mind you) in the face! We need to pull it all out (maybe this should have happened earlier, but its a hard line when its still pickable…) and bed prep for summer!!
Our main attentions are picking for our peeps on Wednesdays and then setting up the new patch. Hugh and Sas nutted out the irrigation this week – huzzah! and next week will see Sas and me weeding and bed prepping and laying irrigation for said new patch (it is real, I can assure you!).
We’ve been doing a fair bit of interviews and things lately and you’ll see some of our words coming out in the next issue of the ‘oak’ magazine, looking at rural women in business. It’s funny, and I guess flattering for us that people want to hear our stories. I’m looking forward to it, as it’s in print and there is no online version, I kinda dig that stuff.
We’ve also had the treat of talking about collaborating with Castlemaine tea ‘sun on leaf’ with some edible flowers and herbs that we grow…this week Hannah took some cornflowers to trial for her Earl Grey mix…(delicious by the way, look her up).
And in the meantime, Sas and I are warming ourselves up for long hot days…even though it feels like they’re not coming – by Jove I’m sure they will. The okra and zucchinis have popped their heads up in the hot house so we know it’s a comin…eeeek!
Have a restful and joyous weekend folks

October in the Patch…

Well, happy October everyone, and isn’t this the most perfect spring weather – warm sunshine, lil bits of rain, choruses of birdsong and then cooler nights.  The mozzies are out and the bees are too.  It’s all on! But it feels calm and beautiful, not like the dry, hot and dusty summer!

However, out at the patch everything is ON! It’s the turn of the season for us, the warm air and soil tells the plants its time to flower and set seed, and we need to prep beds ready for our first successions of late spring/early summer plantings for our local community! It’s wonderful to be working in the sunshine and its a great time to open up the place (when we’re not working) so people can come and have a look at what their garlic looks like in the ground and the currently grassy/weedy 1/4 block which in 1 month (eeek!) will house the tomatoes and eggplants, capsicums, potatoes, melons, pumpkins, corn…the list goes on!! 

A few weeks ago we had our first ‘open day’ and it was a roaring success! We were so blown away with the interest and support from the wider community in our humble patch.  I reckon we had 50-80 peeps through the gate to have a gander and walk around. So nice for Sas and I as that’s one of our visions for our space – to have it as a welcoming place.  There were scones devoured, questions asked, information sought and seedlings taken home. Thanks again to everyone who helped beforehand and during and everyone who made the trip out!

Another exciting tidbit to share is that there is movement with the Harcourt Organic Farming Alliance…here’s a wee story and article that Rural ABC came and did last week.


Pretty exciting to introduce Tess as the new dairy queen who is beginning building her things this month, wahoo!


Due to progress with the alliance, Sas and I have been motivated to plant more trees…it’s pretty novel for us market gardeners to plant something ONCE, and we’ve enjoyed it immensely.  In the ground are oranges of a few varieties, Tahitian limes and elderflowers. In the future we want blood oranges, grapefuits, lemons, pomegranates, and some more natives.  All of these are creating for our new block edible shade and wind breaks.  Winning!

We’ve also moved our geenhouse (thanks chuffed!) onsite and it’s working a dream. Sas has set up automated watering systems and has planted thousands of green babies that are poking their heads up already. It’s really heart warming to see!

As there is SO MUCH to always do (at any time of year really) as everything grows so quick, including grass and weeds, our mental health and anxiety levels are doing pretty darn great I reckon. We’re looking after ourselves and each other and we’ve got a beaut mob who surround us too.  We also make sure we have some off-farm fun time and exercise other elements of life we enjoy – aka silly buggers, music and dog boxing…

I think this is important for us in order to keep the passion and still work really hard. We know the crazy 6 months have begun and we want to do the long yards…so we’re practising breathing, laughing, appreciating the beauty surrounding us and taking life lightly. Cos really, what else can we do?

Grow well and go smell a blossom or two.

Mel xx

Gung Hoe Growers

69 Danns Rd Harcourt