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!

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

Turning up the heat!

I always said that our first year of operating a market garden was going to be a complete experiment. We have tested raising pigs for meat vs. saving them as pets, sowing seed vs. buying seedlings, staking tomatoes vs. wire mesh enclosures for them, and several different sprinkler systems vs. drip irrigation systems, just to name a few of the trials.  There have been some lovely successes, and some monumental disasters… or should I say, fundamental learnings!

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Jac and Gordon bean picking from the heavily laden vines

Jacqueline (Foodscape Tours), and her wonderful tour bus-driving Dad, Gordon visited today to help pick beans for this Saturday’s Jamberoo market. Notice the dangerous bowing of the stakes under the weight of the climbing beans in the photo above?  So, although hardwood stakes and twine were a lovely idea, the beans have been blown about way too much in the wind, and have required Andrew to reinforce the structure almost daily due to the weight of the produce.

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Eggplants and chard, the day after the 43 degree heatwave.

Along with the ‘try it and see’ challenges, we have had an abnormally dry spring and summer, by all accounts.  This has meant that we have given up using the sprinkler system altogether – as although the lovely Foxground breezes make for a comfortable working environment in the heat,  too much water was being blown away, and wasted.  Therefore, the half of the garden which hasn’t been kitted up with dripper hoses, (and the plans for root vegetables) has been let go – for now anyway – while we arrange more hose to replace where the sprinkler was intended to be used.

Jack by the dam

Jack by the dam – 11 Jan 2013

The dam from where we draw water for the vegetables is the lowest it has been for a long time, according to Kerry and Nicko, and our watering regimen is strictly, and carefully timed.  The cabbage moths seem to have moved on, and the fruit fly have only touched a few tomatoes, and we wonder if this is perhaps due to the very dry conditions?  I imagine the answers to so many of the very many questions we have, will only come after years of experience.

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Summer sunrise over the baths at Boat Harbour, Gerringong

But… despite the heat and the mixed result experiments, while ever we are blessed to have the opportunity to work this beautiful South Coast land at all, and to live 10 minutes walk away from being able to start every day looking at this glorious sun rise, no problem is really a problem at all.  All the challenges and learning opportunities are blessings, albeit sometimes in disguise.

Ham and Salad…

We have been running our Jamberoo Pub Feast Markets for a couple of months now, and some weeks Tass from Jamberoo Valley Farm brings down an assortment of her gorgeous heirloom variety seedlings. She has loads of beautiful varieties of salad greens, some very unusual such as delicate ‘bucks horn’ and ‘lamb’s lettuce’. Interesting tomato varieties too; and ‘casper eggplant’!

Tass and the Jamberoo Valley Farm seedlings

I have of course been unable to resist purchasing many of them, and they have been planted in Warwick Park’s garden.  Interested in having a look, P1 escaped from his comfortable enclosure last night, and when I arrived in the garden this morning he was having a lovely time taste testing the fresh garden offerings!

Ham and salad…

They say ‘happy as a pig in mud’, but let me tell you, a pig in a veggie garden is pretty chuffed too! He is led by his stomach though, and when offered his very favourite treat of creamy South Coast Dairy milk, he trotted happily back into his enclosure.

How old is heirloom?

We celebrated all things unique and special this week, with Deb’s Birthday, heirloom veggies and the wonderful job our heritage pigs are doing preparing the ground for spring. Not sure if Deb would like to be considered ‘heirloom’, but seeing she now has grand-nieces and nephews, I don’t think she’d be too offended by the dictionary definition of, “A valued possession passed down in a family through succeeding generations.”

Deb & Steve – enjoying Ran’s heirloom cherry tomatoes at the Pavilion on Tuesday night.

Heirloom veggies are described as old, open-pollinated and mostly non-hybrid with some suggesting they needed to exist as they are today before 1951 (which Deb certainly didn’t!), or even before the Second World War. Popular not just because they often look interesting and beautiful, but often taste better and are sometimes more pest and disease hardy.

Gorgeous heirloom eggplants ran out the door at last week’s Feast Markets, and will make an appearance again this week.

The exact lineage of Feast Farm’s pair of pigs is somewhat doubtful, but they look like Berkshires to me, which is Britain’s oldest pig breed, originating from Berkshire county (now Oxfordshire).  I’m just thrilled with the job our pair are doing moving the grass at Warwick Park. As well  as preparing the ground, we planted over 40 trees along the Southern fence line line here last Sunday to help create a wind break and bring small birds to the new garden.  Bring on spring!

Pigs at Foxground doing a great job of moving the grass

Soupy weather

Having sampled The Heads Hotel’s hearty green pea soup the other week, Head Chef Renee tells me her spicy Immune Boosting soup is selling out as fast as she can prepare it. Local Kent, butternut and grey pumpkins sell out each week at the Feast markets too, as the colder, darker days entice us to enjoy warming ‘soul’ satisfying foods.

Heads Hotel Chef, Renee

Root vegetables have a robust flavour that make them wonderful soup and roasting material, although some people still pick them up and say, “What do I do with this?!” Carrots don’t need much explanation, and one of my favourite recipes is carrot and ginger soup, made with the lovely fresh organic ginger in stock now from Dapto Community Farm. Parsnips, swedes, jerusalem artichokes, turnips and celeriac are other earth dwelling delights available at the moment. Ask for a copy of your special winter veg recipe sheet this week when you visit us in Berry (Friday), or at the Heads Hotel (Saturday).

The new guy in town…

The Pavilion Hotel has a new chef, and Ran has been visiting us at the markets each Friday to check out what’s fresh & what’s local. Just moved up from Melbourne (and still looking for a room to let… anyone?), he is determined to keep the menu fresh too, adapting as often as he needs to, to ensure fresh, seasonal flavours.

Chef Ran Kimelfeld

Last week he bought a couple of shiny black eggplants to create burnt eggplant soup as an entree for a vegan guest that night. Deb and I were lucky enough to get to taste it, when he popped back over the road a couple of hours later, with samples and teaspoons….yum!!! Any time you need help Ran! He takes great food shots too – both of these dishes below have been on the menu in the last few weeks, so go and have your own taste test soon.

Ran’s roasted fennel with grilled ocean trout

Stuffed zucchini flowers with feta and home made pesto

Richard’s Mushies

As if the stunning Calderwood Valley and escarpment backdrop aren’t inspiring enough, chatting to Richard at Calderwood Valley Mushrooms this morning has reminded me what a gutsy lot our young farmers are. Leaving the steel industry, Richard had no idea how a mushroom came to end up on his fork before he bought this business 6 years ago.

Richard in the shed

But, when your heart’s in the right place, things usually work out. Richard is passionate about maintaining our land for food production into the future, and 80% of his product is sold locally. As we wandered around to collect boxes for this week’s Feast Markets, there were people everywhere, in and out of sheds, and a team bagging valuable garden mushroom compost.  He shared stories about giving young kids a job, and how he enjoyed this giving him the opportunity to help direct them out of difficult life situations, and make healthy decisions.  He is no doubt a great role model to young guys, and a valuable mentor.

Calderwood Valley

He has big dreams and wonderful vision, no doubt nourished by this beautiful spot….watch this space.

Seven Cedars update…

A perfect autumn garden day today. The citrus in the Seven Cedars garden in Foxground is colouring beautifully, the peas have started flowering, the garlic is up and away, and many of the hundreds of seeds sown over the last few weeks are popping up to enjoy the sun.

Perfect autumn day for a garden

I finished off a compost heap today, with barrow after barrow of fresh cow poo pinched from the neighbours paddock.  Twelve cubic metres of wood chip arrives tomorrow afternoon to line the paths, and the barrow will be put to work for a few days then I suspect. All in all though, I’m pretty chuffed with how this feast is growing.