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

After the Hoe Down…

Today, like every other day,
we wake up empty
and frightened.

Don’t open the door to the study and begin reading.

Take down a musical instrument.

Let the beauty we love be what we do.

There are hundreds of ways to kneel and
kiss the ground.

~ Rumi

This is one of my (Sas) most favorite poems by the Sufi poet, Rumi.  If I were the tattooing type I’d have it on my forehead. Instead I’ve made do with inflicting my poetic impulses on pumpkins instead. Just a good reminder, as you rustle through the pumpkin patch to stop, breathe and appreciate the beauty in that moment.

Being a market gardener isn’t easy. If you’ve read any of our blogs over the last 3 years, you’ll get the gist of that. You certainly don’t do it for money, you do it because it’s your practice of letting ‘the beauty you love be what you do’. Its our way of kneeling and kissing the ground.

Last Saturday was our inaugural ‘Hoe Down’, bush dance and feast. Another chance to let the beauty we love be what we do.  It was a chance to pause and celebrate the crazy summer harvest season that has been, to get sweaty, dusty and giggly with our community, and to share the abundance of what we are growing here (actually and metaphorically!).

Whenever we open up and do something that welcomes people into our Gung Hoe world, we are overwhelmed with the support and positivity that flows in from the beautiful humans around us. The Hoe Down was no exception. So much generous volunteering of time, energy and resources to transform our raw ingredients, grassy paddock and filthy packing shed into a spectacular, thumping Hoe Down arena!

It was such a heartwarming thing to see people of all ages and sizes dancing together in the paddock and kicking up dust to the romping tunes of the Centenary Bushband. So much laughter and joy!

Andy and Alex played some soulful tunes as we watched the sun dip beyond the horizon, the moon rise over Leanganook, and the evening colours spread out across the sky. Then even more beautiful music from The Rattlers (Cara and Marty- also playing at the Tap Room from 5 pm this Sunday 6 May – check them out) as we hoed into Pavlovas for dessert! Bliss!

 

Feeding people with our produce is a very special thing. Growing it is one thing, but then, under the guidance of culinary geniuses Deb Taylor and Nikki Valentini, to transform it into a feast for soul and stomach is something beyond words.

We kneel, kiss the ground and give thanks for the beautiful humans who surround us and continue to nourish and support us through all the seasons. As the garlic pops its head up through the mulch to see what all the noise and carry-on was on the weekend, we give thanks too, for the opportunity we have, every day to ‘let the beauty we love, be what we do.’

Grow well

Sas (and Mel)

The Dirty Gung Hoes

Let’s fight the fly

After a long fruit-growing history, Harcourt has come up against a new foe. Queensland Fruit Fly is on our doorstep and threatens to abruptly end our fruit production heritage by decimating home gardens and commercial crops alike.

On Thursday 5 April Megan Hill, the project officer for the Fruit Fly Action Plan, and Ali Brookes of Maldon Cherry Farm organised a series of information sessions in the local area to educate the community. A small crowd of farmers and gardeners gathered at the Harcourt Anglican hall for the final 1 hour session of the day.

We discussed the history of the Queensland Fruit Fly and its march south over the eastern states, the life cycle of the insect, the diverse range of fruit it will affect, what to do with infected produce and of course, a range of potential defense mechanisms.

Netting, baiting, trapping and hygiene were all discussed at length but the prominent message from the day was that it will take a unified effort from the entire community to safeguard our veggie gardens and our orchards. Every backyard fruit tree and garden must be managed properly or removed. That means installing traps to monitor the population, netting plants or bagging fruit, using baiting sprays if necessary (there are organic and nonorganic options available), and even having some chooks or ducks to reduce fly numbers. If any fruit is found to be infected it must be collected immediately and solarised (placed in a garbage bag and left in the sun for a few days) or frozen. Infected fruit can NOT be composted as this is the perfect environment for the larvae to pupate and hatch.

As a new fruit grower in the area, I was keen to attend the session so that I could improve my knowledge of the fly and better understand all the options available to defend my new orchard. It is daunting to be starting a farming enterprise in the face of this insidious pest but I have faith that we can collectively protect ourselves. Also, my current farming mentors, Hugh and Katie of Mount Alexander Fruit Gardens, hold a wealth of experience and knowledge that I can glean and add to my pest control tool belt.

I am passionate about farming, love growing food for my local community, and feel proud to be the next generation of custodian for Harcourt’s fruit production history. These are the things that motivate me to ‘fight the fly’. Spread the word, educate your friends, properly manage or remove your fruiting trees/plants and help us farmers stay fruit fly free.