Farming in a changing climate…

Hello everyone and happy new year! Hard to believe another year has come and gone…
We are currently watering everything, giving it a long deep soak as tomorrow it’s meant to be 41° and quite windy. Who would believe that last week we had 22 mm of rain in 5 minutes and gusts of wind that lifted our greenhouse off its feet and bent star pickets that were firmly in the ground?  Welcome to climate change we say.  Last week Sas and I were preparing for a severe thunderstorm and so were deliberately pulling up onions and giving them the best storage. Nothing could have prepared us however for what felt like a mini cyclone. We were shielding the onions with our bodies and then realised the rain and wind and hail was coming from all directions—we had to laugh. Swore a fair bit and laughed again, the onions were soaked and the good old garlic was wet, again… GEEEEZUS!
The predictions for central Victoria in the next few decades are exactly this though—drier winters and extreme summer storms. So rains in a short downpour, none of that good soaking steady stuff.
A friend who works with very large-scale ‘conventional’ farmers was sharing with me that the changing climate has affected everyone. The farmers she works with used to spray 4 or maybe 5 times a year; now they spray almost every month due to the uncertainty (and I would argue plant/soil/microorganism health too) and extremity of the climate. We can never claim to ‘know’ the wild nature, but I’m sure most of us remember the consistent seasons and the weather that came with them.
It is important to know where we’re heading and know that is happening on a global level too, rather than feel that it is just us who get knocked side to side by the changing conditions.
We’ve also got plans to build very real storage to suit our needs better—storage that will outlast hurricanes and floods and droughts (ha – we can try right!?). So, resilience is the key we have come to build upon. Resilience as people, communities and looking after ourselves, each other and the planet.
We lost a bit over 1/3 of our garlic crop this year when all was said and done, which was not so bad for the amount of time we’ve spent moving, sorting, moving, shucking it, etc. etc., but for our seed next year we have selected only the bulbs that are whole and didn’t collect any mould. That is our beginning of saving not just the biggest but the hardiest—in the long run, this is what will last!
So, people! The garlic is finally ready for you and yours! It’s the last time we’ll write about it—this year the garlic is like GOLD! We’ve literally hand sorted each and every clove—yes clove, not bulb!
If you would like it for your kitchen and/or as a gift, we are selling it here :
Included in the price is your very own garlic storage and reuseable small hessian bag with our dirty hoe logo for 5 bucks. Woohoo!
There’s lots of stuff growing in the garden, and the increasingly early mornings give us space to breathe in and out with the earth at dawn and wonder at the miracle of how things just do what they do and grow…I’m sure there’s a parallel there somewhere 😉

Gung Hoe Growers

69 Danns Rd Harcourt

Victoria is back!

Hey Folks,

I’m back at Mt Alexander Fruit Gardens for a quick visit after leaving here just over 2 years ago, at the end of my internship. While I was doing my internship, I spent months observing the orchards for flowering and fruit set times, pruned the trees, thinned the fruit, spread compost, planted trees, made compost tea, fixed the irrigation, carried out some pest management, and slashed the grass around the orchards. Just about everything except eat lots of fruit!

I had to leave just at the beginning of the fruit season, when only a couple of the apricot varieties and one of the peach varieties, Anzac, were ripe and ready to be devoured. All of which were delicious, of course, but it’s such a treat to be able to enjoy some more of the multitude of varieties grown here at MAFG. Today I’ve eaten some Bebeco apricots, Briggs Red May white peaches and Stark Earlingo yellow peaches, all of which were so, so tasty. I’m feeling very content, fruit filled, and summery. If you can get yourself here for some Pick Your Own fun I would highly recommend it!

It’s such a pleasure to return to the farm, reconnect with Katie and Hugh and all the beautiful people that they have in their community, while enjoying such a gorgeous landscape. It feels like I never left, although I can see some changes around the place to remind me that time has passed. The garden we planted at the farm shop, just before the end of my internship, is flourishing. However, the tamarillo tree I planted might have grown just a little too much! Dear old Oscar, one of the farm dogs, has passed away after the best life a dog could hope for. Feeling a little sad that I didn’t get to give him one last cuddle.

But there are all kinds of exiting new ventures under way here, bringing in new life and energy. As always, Katie and Hugh are at the forefront of creative ways to farm and engage the community in food production, while providing new growers opportunities to get started. I’m feeling very inspired being back and dreaming of my own little micro-enterprise here on the farm.

Who knows what the future may bring, but I do know that I will always come home to MAFG whenever I have the chance. It’s an incredibly special place that has shaped me as a person and as a grower. I feel very blessed to have had the time I did here and look forward to a life-long connection with this place and the amazing people. Hope you are all enjoying some of the bountiful fruit from MAFG over this festive season.

Until next time, Victoria.

Proactive active optimism

The concept of hope is too passive for farmers. We can hope that the weather will be perfect, that our soil has all the right nutrients to grow a healthy crop and that the kangaroos won’t jump on our tomato seedlings, but hope alone is not enough. We have to cultivate a proactive active kind of optimism, perhaps a foolhardy kind, one rooted in thoughtfulness, knowledge, a healthy dose of finger crossing and action.

This week we had beautiful (if a little abrupt and severe) rain to soak the ground. Along with that rain which came in horizontally through our shed window and after three hot and humid weeks, we have lost half of our garlic crop to rot (feel guts sink and tears fall at this point). It could have been much worse, and given the strength of the winds, all our tomato trellises are still standing. We’ll clock that as a win.

The hope of a farmer is in the tiny seed she plants, hoping that the beauty and strength within that tiny speck will be unlocked to grow and reach its full potential. We never know if it will, but we do all we can to help it along.

May your solstice and festive season be restful and full of beauty. May your new year be like a seed planted, full of hope and wonder waiting to be realised.

Grow well

Sas and Mel