Tim and Thea’s dream

Tim and Thea moved to the Bega Valley almost 2 years ago. As Tim is originally from the NSW North Coast, and Thea from Melbourne, they spent some time researching different ares before they chose to set up their dream farm on 25 acres just North of Cobargo.

Tim in the first 'patch'

Tim in the first ‘patch’

With a landscape management and conservation background, Tim also has 10 years experience working in bush regeneration, but his and Thea’s dream is to grow food. Good food and lots of it.

Young celeries

Young celeries

Once they chose their ideal property, they set about choosing the best sites for vegetable plantings, and setting up irrigation from the property’s 3 dams.

A live-in helping hand

A live-in helping hand

Their friend Jeremy has recently joined them in their venture, and gutted and refitted a sustainable home for himself out of an old caravan parked near the house.

Insect attractants...

Insect attractants…

Tubs of worms

Tubs of worms

Passionate about permiculture principles and growing organically, the pair employ every trick they can to maximise the productivity of their farm, including worm farms and compost that they create from piles of wood chip and fish waste that they pick up from the wharves at Bermagui.

Tigerella tomatoes

Tigerella tomatoes

They raise all their own seedlings from seed they collect in Thea’s very impressive collection which lines the shelves of a dark hallway in one wing of the house.

Seedlings

Seedlings

They have chooks and goats, including a kid that Thea has been given to hand raise, destined for the table down the track.

Thea and the kids

Thea and the kids

Both Thea and Tim work a few days per week off the farm, but their next commercial plot is being prepared now to increase their growing capacity, and they aim to become certified organic growers, at which point they will have to decide on a name for the venture – which dinner conversations have narrowed down to three possibilities….still ‘hush hush’.

A very cultured Thea

A very cultured Thea

Extremely resourceful and abundantly enthusiastic, Thea makes her own sour dough bread, kombucha tea and delicious flavoured kefir – which I can vouch for on several occasions now. No doubt helped by her Greek background, her baklava is renowned in Sweet Home Cobargo, a local cafe where she helps out in the kitchen.

The orphan kid

The orphan kid

It’s early days, but they are delivering produce to several local customers, and the ideas and passions for their project are endless. Watch this dream come true.

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My day as a housewife in the 50′s…

As horrible bush fires rage in Victoria and South Australia, although we can’t smell smoke, there is a haze in the air this morning, and the sunrise looks both beautiful and terrible at the same time.

Glowing sunrise

Glowing sunrise

We are blessed to be free of the threat at the moment though, and it is a joy to visit our Wyandotte hen and her 5 new chicks this morning.

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Hen and chicks. Can you spot 3 of the 5?

After collecting the eggs, I pick another bucket of pears, and head into the kitchen to make my first attempt at preserving.

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Apple, ripe and ready

My gorgeous neighbour Joy has lent me her Vacola preserver, complete with bottles, lids, seals, clips and instructions. I learn it’s not just fruit I can save now, but vegies, sauces and even meat – I can even cook a ham in it! Why did so many people put this device away in the 1970′s in favour of a ‘deep freeze’ in the laundry or garage???

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Fowler’s instruction manual, beautifully intact

In fact, I learn so much! Such as my fruit salad will be ‘unpalatable’ unless I preserve passionfruit to add to it each season, and sugar free preserving will work wonders for those who have diabetes… Hmmm. I suppose if the only other fruit you have access too is tinned in heavy syrup?

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Now I too, can be a Mrs B Thrifty!

The book is the 22nd revised edition, and replacement copies:

“…may be purchased from Fowlers Vacola Manufacturing Co. Ltd, 257 Burwood Road, Hawthorn, E.2, Victoria for the sum of 15/6 (which includes sales tax and postage). The Registered Number of your Steriliser must be supplied at the time of ordering – this is important, as no book will be supplied to anyone not having a Vacola Bottling Outfit.”

Now I feel very important as well as knowledgeable!

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The Fowlers Vacola Sterilizer


So I read the little book in detail and start washing and chopping. Hours later my first 9 bottles are done, and it is surprisingly satisfying looking at them all lined up, shiney and beautiful.
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Pears and plums

It’s been a great, productive summer’s day, but my thoughts linger on all the fire fighters, families and businesses having a horrible day in Southern states, working so hard to preserve life and property. Best wishes to all of you.

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Bangalay Bend Garlic

Dignams Creek is tucked away off the Highway between Cobargo and Tilba Tilba and is home to the NASAA certified organic farm, Bangalay Bend.

Dignams Creek

Dignams Creek

Driveway to the Bend

At the end of the track, Mark and Didi’s mudbrick home is nestled against the hillside, with sweeping views across their market garden paddocks, and up to Mark’s woodworking workshop.

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The farm’s beautiful anti-aviary

Bangalay Bend is renowned for it’s great tasting purple garlic, and what Mark and Didi harvest here each November and December, is now shipped all around the country.

Mark in one of the garlic drying sheds

Mark in one of the garlic drying sheds

Picking the garlic when the soil is not too wet, and drying it correctly is critical to the production of a high quality product. The drying sheds have to be well ventilated, and fans help circulate air in this shed as well.

Bangalay Bend Garlic

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The second drying shed

Like all agricultural businesses, growing garlic poses all sorts of challenges from Mother Nature, and Didi uses biological farming practices to help balance her soil, and grow high quality pest and disease free product.

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The aerated compost tea ‘brewer’

Foliage of the Farm’s crops are sprayed twice each season with a tea brewed from lucerne, fish emulsion, worm castings, compost and seaweed extract.

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A sample of Didi’s carefully created biodynamic preparation

As well as the foliar sprays, Didi sprays her soils with a biodynamic preparation which has been sandwiched between two freshly slaughtered steer hides and buried about 80cm deep for 9 months.

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Chooks at work in the enclosed vegetable garden

The resulting product, when the hides are uncovered just looks delicious!.. and the results of its application on the gardens speak for themselves.

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Espaliered Satsuma Plums

Didi is particularly skilled in espaliering her many fruit trees, either vertically like this plum, or horizontally to maximise the fruiting of the horizontal branches.

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Pomegranate

It feels like a Garden of Eden visiting here, and to share a welcoming cup of tea on the verandah is to sit and soak up a wholesome, vibrant energy from all around you.

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The gorgeous Layla

It’s absolutely peaceful. And if you want to share some of this beautiful place, you can buy Mark and Didi’s garlic directly via bangalaybend@bigpond.com, and they’ll post it to you, or it’s available at Sweet Home Cobargo, on the main street in Cobargo. See you there.

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Honoring the past

We have now been here for 5 months, and although this little cottage is starting to really feel like home, we are well aware that our presence is just a ‘blip’ in the history of this old place.

Roses by the front door of the shed

Roses by the front door of the shed

The original house was built in 1924, and we’re told the shed is older than that. Built with wide, axe cut eucalyptus timbers and held together without nails, the western wall fell ‘out’ about 4 years ago, and has been propped up into place ever since.

Old tank wood stack

Old tank wood stack

The tiny four bedroom cottage we now live in has undergone several renovations over the years, as evidenced by the collapsed fireplace under the floor of the middle of the house, filled in doorways and internal windows. We’re told that the latest of these renovations was carried out about 12 years ago by a couple called John and Kate, who painted every wall, window and doorway a different colour of the rainbow.  They set up organic market gardens and are responsible for much of the orchard and wind break tree plantings.

Geraniums smothering an old gate

Geraniums smothering an old gate

They sold to a corporate Sydney couple who owned it for nearly 9 years, only visited from time-to-time, and paid locals to maintain the gardens. These Sydney owners returned the paintwork to neutral colours, other than Tom’s room that was still orange when we moved in.  They apparently liked to cut down the trees and hold bonfires, and 4 weeks before we moved in, the neighbours dairy cows broke through the fence and wreaked all sorts of damage on the garden. Their infrequent visits encouraged lots of black snakes to call the place home, which made for interesting times over our first few weeks here! We don’t mind snakes being around, but have found peace with them making their homes in the compost heap, rather than on the back door step.

Stick gate

Hand made stick gate

There is much that is quirky about this old place, like the row of floor to ceiling windows in the living room – none of which is the same height, but we love it. The view is amazing, and the established fruit trees are laden with gorgeous apricots, pears, plums, apples, figs and mulberries and the irrigation is all in place to help us quickly set up our new Feast Farm.

Boys by the dam

Boys by the dam

We have started building a glasshouse, and will renovate the old shed as well. We have had a great first crop of herbs and vegies from the enclosed kitchen garden, and have started planting more trees. Google Earth shows that there were many more wattle trees around the dam several years ago, which is why the last owners from Sydney re-named the property “Wattleview”. We’ve decided to go back to what we’re told was it’s original name – “Myrtle Creek Cottage” – presumably after the little creek which flows at the bottom of the block, behind the dam.

Enjoying the creek on a hot day

Enjoying the creek on a hot day

There are no doubt many more stories we will hear over the years, which will help us piece together some more of the property’s history. In the meantime, it’s our turn; and we aim to make sure whoever lives here once we are gone, is just as appreciative of everything that we have done, as we are of those before us.

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Celebrating Australia Day in Bermagui

When you wake up on Australia Day and it’s the most perfect Aussie summer’s day ever, you just have to go to the beach, and for us that means the beautiful Horseshoe Beach at Bermagui.

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Hard day at the office for the life savers…

If the weather wasn’t perfect enough, when we arrived we discovered that the monthly Bermagui Market was being held in the carpark right behind the Surf Life Saving Club at the beach.

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Bermagui’s monthly market place

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The biggest smiles at the market were definitely the carnivores.

Tent after tent of all sorts of delicious local offerings right there, and we couldn’t resist coffee and fresh bagels to take with us down to the beach.

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Bermi SLSC volunteers hard at work.

I learnt from the life savers that beaches are given a safety rating from 1 to 10, with 1 being the safest and 10 the least safe. The beach here at Horseshoe Bay has a rating of 3, making it one of the safest (and I think most beautiful), beaches on the South Coast.

Zinced up and having fun!

Zinced up and having fun!


Perfect day. Perfect venue. Fabulous market offerings, and no crowds. One of the many reasons why the NSW South Coast is one of the best kept secrets.
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Part of the wonderful Mimosa produce display


And for our Australia Day lunch, flathead fillets and Wapengo organic oysters. I LOVE oysters, but these are the best and freshest I have ever eaten. Plucked off leases just down the road, which have apparently been named some of the cleanest in the world. The world!!! Man we have it good in Australia.
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Mimosa Olives


The Mimosa Winery and Restaurant is the next local venue we want to explore – fine dining only 10 minutes further down the coast; serving local foods with sweeping views over the famous Mimosa National Park. Stay tuned, and Happy Australia Day wherever you are!

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Cobargo Farm

Cobargo Farm is a pleasure garden and working farm located on the Bermagui Road, just outside the historic town of Cobargo on the Far South Coast, about 10 minutes drive from Feast Farm. Three generations of the Holloway and Doolin families help run this farm and last Saturday October 5th was the third time they have held an open day to showcase the amazing job they do.

Cobargo Farm sells at the gate 7 days from dawn 'till dusk.

Cobargo Farm sales always welcome.

Janet heads up the hard working team at the farm where they produce an enormous variety of seasonal fruit and vegetables, raise pigs, chooks and cattle, and keep bees, ducks and sheep. All of this bounty is beautifully laid out around the homestead, shady established trees, a spring fed creek and dams, and flower gardens, including a large collection of roses.

Cobargo Farm

Cobargo Farm

The Open Day was as much about showcasing the local community as it was about getting to stroll around and enjoy the Farm itself. There were dozens of stalls laid out on the lawns, each showcasing the talents and productivity of this vibrant region.

CWA Hospitality

CWA Hospitality

Along with sheep shearing, bee keeping, and spinning, the Galba Forge was one of the demonstrations you could watch, and the unique form of blacksmithing practiced by Hans Schippi was mesmerising to watch. How you can take a piece of metal and wrought it into beautiful, natural looking pieces that are not only artistic, but beautifully functional, is inspiring. Of course, mostly the Open Day was about food- although a great band played on the deck overlooking the rose garden and their cruisy music pervaded the entire garden, along with the smell of the Lions Club sausage sizzle. Alfred and Jane’s Cobargo home made ice cream was a stand out for us too!

Cobargo Farm

Cobargo Farm


We haven’t lived here for very long at all, but I have to say it feels different to anywhere else I’ve ever lived. I guess this is the ‘real’ country here, as opposed to the peri-urban fringe farming areas which are commutable from a capital city. It has a very different feel. A strong sense of community, I suppose because people genuinely rely on each other so much more from day-to-day. Lots of things you take for granted in, or near a big city may not be available (especially services), have to be ordered in advance, then take longer to arrive and possibly cost more.
Perfect hat for this gorgeous day in the garden!

Perfect hat for this gorgeous day in the garden!


But, as Janet and her family would no doubt agree, those problems become insignificant compared to the benefits. You don’t just visit here, you choose to escape, and immerse yourself in a different way of life.

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Further-a-field…

At Warwick Park in Foxground, the beds have finally dried out a bit, and the vegies are mostly none-the-worst for the months of drenching rain. The mixed winter green crop of oats, vetch and mustard has flourished!

Our oat green crop devouring children!

Our oat green crop devouring children!

During a Foodscape Tours visit a couple of weeks ago, we picked our first baby parsnips – small, but a sign of yummy things to come. This was Feast Farms last visit from Jacqueline and her guests, as the Warwick Park garden has now been handed over to Bonnie Cassen of Sharwood Greens. Bonnie will continue to host visitors and supply wholesome, fresh vegies to Green Box & local restaurants in the area. Have fun Bonnie, and we look forward to watching the garden flourish, and sharing vegie growing tips and stories!

Jac and baby parsnips

Jac and baby parsnips

Meanwhile, we have been exploring further South in search of larger paddocks to till. The South Coast is such a ‘hidden treasure’…..so many beautiful, character-rich villages from Milton, down through Moruya, to one of my very favourites, Bodalla. Beautiful forests, stunning coastline, flourishing arts communities and cottage industries everywhere. So many experiences to soak up and flavours to savour!

Pumpkin harvest

Cobargo pumpkin harvest

The contrast between the rural heritage of Tilba Tilba one minute, a pretty 10 minute drive through spotted gum forests later and you’re watching seals sunning themselves on the breakwater as fishing boats bob up and down gently in Bermagui Harbour. Irresistible really!

Small town eats

Delicious local Cobargo offerings…

Back in Berry, husband and wife team John Evans and Sonia Greig have now opened their awesome new restaurant “SOUTH on Albany“. John does a great job sourcing many local, seasonal ingredients for their simple modern menu influenced by chef John’s Welsh background and European training. The menu is accompanied by a fantastic wine list again offering many wines from the local region. A ‘must visit’ for a fresh, delicious, seasonal meal.

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Moonacres Inspiration

It has been great to get to know Phil from Moonacres Farm over the last couple of weeks. Formerly working in finance, Phil began farming here at Fitzroy Falls in 2007, and what he has set up, and  the certified organic produce he is growing – is very impressive.

Browsing the crops, and eating corn fresh off the cob

Browsing the crops, and eating corn fresh off the cob

It’s a big setup – 100 metre long rows, lovely big orchards, paddocks of pumpkins and sheds full of lots of big equipment – makes my setup look quite puny really! I was quick to point out to Phil that I was still on my “L” plates with my growing efforts, at which he was just as quick to retort that he was too. That was encouraging.

Drying garlic - Australian purple and white

Drying garlic – Australian purple and white

In fact, as Phil described the evolution of his learning about how to best grow different crops, I felt that my journey – albeit on a micro scale – was not too dissimilar.  In fact, I know now you never finish learning how to grow anything well.  Not only does every individual geographic site offer different challenges, but so does every season, every batch of seed, and every nudge of intuition that says to try ‘this’ or ‘that’.

Beautifully formed and irrigated rows.

Row after row, after beautiful row…..

It’s rained all night again. We have had soooo much rain since February. This has taught us which areas of our paddock drain well, and which areas a drenching downpour will prevent us from moving on for weeks to come. While we’re busy learning, it has been great to be able to offer our Jamberoo Pub markets customers supplementary, certified organic – jumping out of its skin with life – produce from Moonacres.

Bill and his 'healing' greens.

Bill and his ‘healing’ greens.

As we are busy setting up our Jamberoo stall each Saturday morning, Bill arrives to buy his kale, and other greens to juice. Yesterday he was telling me how until a couple of years ago, he was taking an enormous amount of medication for arthritis and other ills, but seeing the documentary film Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead, prompted him to drastically alter his diet.  Raw vegies and green juices feature daily on his menu now, and he takes no medication, and says he has never been healthier.  See, we all should never stop learning how to grow.

More elegant fungus, in the mulch at Jamberoo Pub

More elegant fungus, in the mulch at Jamberoo Pub

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Biological truths

I have been inspired this week by John Elliot Gardiner, who owns Gore Farm – a 650 acre organic farm in Dorset, SW England. He has just turned 70, and is actually better known as a great classical music conductor. When asked if he had to choose his favourite, which he would choose between music and farming, he replied “You dismember me! It is not possible. I have to have both. Music occupies one’s heart and brain, and farming is to do with creating food, looking after animals, refreshment and … other challenges.”

Gore Farm, Dorset

It is his choice of the word “creating” that captivated me. I have dabbled in the soil one way or another all my life, but I am only now becoming fully aware of how to grow anything to be strong, disease free and healthy, it’s all about creating the environment in which it is to grow – at a cellular level – and this doesn’t mean adding anything that comes out of a bottle, packet or drum. It’s about creating the optimum cellular conditions for nature to do what it does so well without any help from us: Biological Farming.

Soil alive…discovering a friend while weeding at Foxground.

This isn’t new. Different cultures have naturally managed the productivity of their soils for thousands of years, and nearly 90 years ago Rudolph Steiner gave lectures about it, and Sir Albert Howard published his first book on the topic nearly 75 years ago. The trouble is that scientists began telling farmers over 100 years ago that they had discovered the cure all for production woes – nitrogen, phosphorus & potassium, all neatly blotted up and ready to spray. Somehow, since that time, many farmers relinquished the intuitive and ‘creative’ components of nurturing their soils, for reliance on chemistry to do the job – and we have to acknowledge that the results have been spectacular. See “What is the ethical choice?“, by The Centre for Food Integrity for some clear, moderate perspective on industrial agriculture – thanks Lynne.

More beautiful fungus at work….can’t help myself.

 Scientific medicine has paralleled the development of industrial agriculture. There aren’t too many health practitioners who will deny that while those of us privileged to reside in the minority world live longer than ever, the responsibility for us to nurture our own biological health to ensure vitality and well being, is all too often, handed over to chemists, again most often with life saving results. The tragedy here is how polarised the scientific vs biological camps have become though, causing disunity and distraction from the issues that really matter.  There should be no right or wrong, only great and greater. Clever and even more clever. To thrive we need to use our scientific knowledge, combined with wisdom and intuition to really be creative.

Andrew and silverbeet

Andrew transplanting a silverbeet. Hmmmm…commercial practice?!

As John Elliot Gardiner says: “To sustain organic farming at a commercial level is tricky due to the weather and the debate over genetically modified crops. It’s no good being nostalgic about organic farming. You have to adapt and be commercially alert; and you have to be bold and daring and not go down a conventional route.”  One of my mentors has hinted that I am practicing “Utopian bull***t”, by the way I currently farm – so I’d like to add one other thing to Mr Gardiner’s list – you also have to be brave.

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Autumn action

It’s been a crazy, busy couple of weeks at Warwick Park.  Our wonderful Japanese friends have arrived with enthusiastic, helping hands, and with a dam full of water and gorgeous autumn sunshine, we are flat out planting, planting, planting.

Seedlings

The new ‘babies’ waiting to be installed…

The abundant crops of leeks, eggplants, zucchini, rainbow chard and capsicum are beginning to dwindle.  With the worst of the summer season behind us, we are preparing the rows and planting seedlings and root crops, utilising the last of the summer’s warmth with hope for further abundance in the months to come.

Cleaning leeks

Tomo, Hiro and Hana, prepping leeks for delivery to Green Box

It’s so great to have Hiro and his Team’s company in the paddock too. Even with the language barrier, working alongside people equally as passionate as you, and with a common objective, is much more satisfying than chatting to chooks – as much as I love them.

Kazo

Kazo – always smiling, even after hours of weeding!

Pretty glad the weeds are about to slow down their prolific growth, and with continued diligence and persistence, hopefully there will be a lot less of them to contend with next year.

Andrew and the new rows

Andrew taking a break.

Not sure if Andrew fell down in the photo above, or plonked down, exhausted? Sometimes, I topple over when a weed finally gives way, or my boot turns up a stone, and it’s a really wonderful thing. Just stopped for a moment. Plonked in the grass and looking across the rows, and up to the hills. We are planning a bit of an open day in the coming months, so you can come and plonk down too if you like? Will let you know as soon as we set the date.

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