Helping out on the farm

We—Penny Kothe and Paul McKinnon—are former owners of Caroola Farm,  in the NSW Southern Tablelands, and we’ve been helping out at Tellurian Fruit Gardens for the past month (which is really exciting, as our farm was the first farm Ant ever worked on). We sold our farm at the end of 2018 and are on the road helping those in need in rural and regional areas – follow us at www.facebook.com/loadsofrs/ 

What is LoadsOfR’s? “Rural, regional, remote, relief, respite, on the road” – seriously, loads of R words we can use and we could not pick just one or two…” says Penny.

To both of us, regional and rural areas are about community, building community and keeping community. “We have driven through too many small towns in our travels where the shops are empty and the street devoid of people,” says Paul. Our future plans are to travel Australia and help those in rural areas in any way we can.

We have varied backgrounds, but most recently running Caroola Farm, a certified organic farm based on permaculture and holistic management principles in the NSW Southern Tablelands farming small numbers of sheep, cattle, pigs, chickens, ducks, turkeys, market gardening, fruit orchard and preserves. We also have a huge range of business skills from finance through to marketing and customer service along with experience in repairs, equipment, maintenance and small building projects.

Paul and Ant sorting plums

Since arriving in mid February, we have been helping with picking, packing, preserving and pruning fruit, packing the CSA boxes for Ant at Tellurian Fruit Gardens.

Penny preparing fruit for preserving

But we certainly got more than we bargained for, as the property is home to a variety of other enterprises under the Harcourt Organic Farming Co-op banner.

Katie pruning apricots trees

It’s been really exciting for us to see another property, albeit set up differently, running a market garden, fruit enterprise, setting up a micro dairy, producing fruit trees and online education, we think this is the future of small-scale farming and it’s great to see a model being implemented.

Paul picking Amber Jewel plums

Apart from helping with Tellurian Fruit Gardens we’ve watched the Gung Hoe Growers plant, water, harvest and weed their vegetables for their CSA members and restaurants.

Mel planting in the Gung Hoe patch (with Scally supervising)

We’ve gone and watched Tess milk her beloved cows, and Oli helping finalise the dairy.

Tess and Roberta at the mobile milking parlour

Merv and Katie have given us an insight into fruit tree budding and grafting, and we’re excited to see the variety of online courses that Katie and Hugh have to offer under Grow Great Fruit.

We were fortunate enough to be invited to Thanksgiving Dinner which happened to be our last evening at the farm—shared meals are a really fantastic way to build community.

Shared meal – good company

Being at Harcourt Organic Farming Co-op has been an absolute pleasure and inspiration, and we look forward to seeing how the collective grows and flourishes into the future.

Penny and Paul

Feeding people in a changing climate

Today the temperature is set to top 43° with winds up to 50 km/hr. Not an unusual summers day in these parts, but with climate change realities becoming more and more pronounced we can expect days like these to get more and more frequent. Feeding people in a changing climate is a huge challenge and one we as farmers are faced with every day. So today, in preparation for the heat and winds, we tuck all our delicate crops in under shade cloth, water early early to get the moisture down into the soil, mulch what we can and watch for the cool change.

This time of year is slightly nerve wracking. We start our 5-6 month veggie box season in 2 weeks, and many of our crops are only just starting to fruit. A few days like today can completely wipe out whole rows of things and set us back months. Our box customers pay upfront for their boxes, so we are committed to delivering boxes in 2 weeks’ time, but nature doesn’t always keep to our timelines!

This morning I picked the first of our zucchinis and cucumbers and looked at the baby eggplants and tomatoes slowly expanding on their plants.  So far so good.

 

Last year we provided 40 mixed vegetable boxes to our community for 5 months. This year we are hoping to provide 50 boxes for 6 months. If you’re interested in getting a box, there are still some available. We have a small weekly box for $30/wk (suitable for 1-3 people) and a large box for $50/wk (suitable for 3-5 people. There is the optional extra of $10 worth of gorgeous organic fruit from Tellurian Fruit Gardens too.

We ask our box customers to commit to 3 months at a time, which makes the admin and planning so much easier for us, but if that kind of upfront payment isn’t possible for you we are always happy to work something out. Pick ups are from The Farm shop on Wednesdays 10 am- 1 pm and Fridays 10 am – 1 pm and we are also doing a Castlemaine drop off at the Theater Royal courtyard on Wednesdays 5-6 pm. Boxes start on 17 Jan (fingers crossed!)

To order a veggie box, go to our Open Food Network shop:

https://openfoodnetwork.org.au/gunghoegrowers/shop

Thanks to everyone who has supported us throughout 2018, we’re looking forward to another year of growing real food for our people.

Happy New Year to you all, may your 2019 be full of peaceful and joyful abundance!

Sas (and Mel)

Gung Hoe Growers

Cherry pie

A rainy day in summer means a day in the kitchen preserving fruit, and if you’re lucky enough to grow (or have access to) cherries, then cherry pie is a wonderful place to start.

But there’s plenty of other ways of preserving cherries as well. One of our regular customers Christine got us inspired with this photo of the fruits of her labour in the kitchen.

From left to right, – Rainier (white cherry) conserve, Lambert (dark cherry) conserve, Rainiers in cognac and Lambert in cognac

Aren’t they gorgeous?  It’s so satisfying to see home-grown produce prepared so beautifully—thanks for sharing Christine, they look amazing.

Feeling inspired at a time when we had a team of WWOOFers (Willing Workers on Organic Farms) staying with us one rainy summer, we got to work on the cherries that had been set aside for home use.  We started with modest ambitions of drying some cherries, and did two batches – one in the electric dehydrator and one in the oven.

Kirsten (aka Rosie the Riveter) about to put a batch of pitted cherries in the oven to dry
We had to use the oven on this occasion, as we couldn’t use our trusty home-made solar dehydrator in the rainy weather. (Click here for instructions on how to make your own solar dehydrator.)

Next was a batch of cherries stewed with star anise, cinnamon and cloves, which we bottled (though the Americans insisted on calling it ‘canning’).

Then the baking started. Oh, my goodness – dried cherry and oatmeal cookies (so named by our American guests), two types of muffin (cherry and chocolate, and cherry, peach & coconut) and cherry and peach scones. Hmmm, so that was morning tea taken care of.

Then thoughts turned to dessert. Chef Laura got excited about making a cherry tarte tatin, which started with sugar, dotted butter and some fantastic Sam cherries in a frying pan. They simmered away until the liquid reduced to a delicious syrupy consistency.

cherry_pie

The pie dough then goes on top of the cherries…

and into the oven, and once cooked, the tarte is upturned on a plate, and eaten with creme anglaise. Oh yeah…..

For most people, that would have been enough, but we still had to have (as promised at the beginning of this blog) cherry pie. Two cherry pies, in fact. Melissa braved the elements to pick some rhubarb to make a rhubarb and cherry sauce to serve with the pies, and Kirsten and Laura got creative with some divine lattice work – note the cherry on top of one pie, and the goat on top of the other, in honour of our friends at Holy Goat cheese.

January is diet month!

Find out more about how to save money with home grown and hand made with our Fabulous Fruit Preserving online short course.