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.

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!

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.

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

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.

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.

Sydney Markets

Morning has always been my best time of day, but I have really loved Friday mornings for this past 10 months or so, going up to the Sydney markets to source fresh produce from other regional growers.

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Up before the sun.

When I finally convinced my daughter to join me one morning, she agreed to be awoken in the dark, “…only if we can visit the flower market too?!”

Pretty start to the day.

Pretty start to the day.

Reluctantly, I agreed, and have incorporated the flower market stop into the Friday morning ritual ever since. Whether the sun is up or not, it’s a buzz that looks and smells exhilarating.

Floral brassicas

Beautiful brassicas.

Unlike the food growers section, which is just plain scary sometimes, among the bustle of florists and this week-end’s brides, there are smiles everywhere. With beauty all around, you can’t help but smile.

Monks

Monks

I don’t know much about the flower-growing world, and sadly I’m sure many of the flowers are imported from far away, and probably not raised with particularly sustainable methods, but there is no denying that the giving of a flower, is an age old way to share joy.

Zzzzzzzzzz

Zzzzzzzzzz

It’s not enough to keep everyone awake though, and my daughter is more than happy to let me choose her flowers for her. Once was enough!

The Yellow House

My lovely friend Charmaine, has been asking me to come and meet her neighbour for about 6 months now. I finally made the time this morning, and boy am I glad I did.  Over 3 years, Mim and Neville of Yellow House Heritage Perennials in Nowra, have converted a concrete carpark into a stunning heritage garden.

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My beautiful niece Sophie, enjoying the flowers.

Walking through the side picket gate, is to partake in a feast of colour, texture and scents. Lovingly tended and nurtured, hundreds of rare and interesting herbs, flowers and vegetables are everywhere you look, and Mim who is a practicing naturopath, can tell you all about the medicinal and culinary uses of every single one.

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Part of the Yellow House perennials nursery.

Like all passionate gardeners, she can tell you stories about how the seed of this was collected, or from where that cutting was ‘pinched’. Inspired by travels to famous gardens all around the world, the Yellow House – though only on a suburban block – feels like a little world all of its own.

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Neville and Jim enjoying the shade.

I’ve been looking for a source of French Tarragon for some time, and of course it’s here. Mim and Neville (a retired Heritage architect) will shortly be launching their online mail order business so that we can all access their extensive collection of perennials, herbs and sustainable plants.

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The Yellow House garden path…

I look foward to Feast Farms cultivating lots of these yummy edibles for inclusion in our beautiful salad mix, and to sell in bunches at our growers market every Saturday morning in Jamberoo. Between the Yellow House collection, and the unique vegies Tass Schmidt is cultivating at Jamberoo Valley Farm, we are rich for choice.

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Mim’s trike


Sadly though, I can’t plant anything more at the moment until either it rains like crazy for a few weeks, or we sink a bore at Warwick Park. The dam is getting seriously low. Need a new rain dance coach…

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.

Martin Place farming

Drove all the way up to the city from Gerringong on Tuesday to have lunch with my wonderful, suit-clad brother, and as I trotted down Martin Place, soaking up the Christmas buzz and glittering decorations, to my surprise the country had followed me to town. An enormous screen had been set up and passers by could step up onto the stage, before a blue screen (which was green) and ask questions of a virtual Aussie farmer.

Chatting to a farmer in Martin Place

According to their Facebook page, ‘Ask an Aussie Farmer’ is:

“…an idea grown by real Aussie farmers so you can have your food and fibre questions answered by those who produce it for you.”

So this is how you chat to an Aussie farmer.

Great idea. I hope it gets a few more city folk thinking about the source of all  the lovely food offerings in their city arcades, cafes and restaurants; about how it’s all produced and about the security of its supply in our changing world. Most importantly, the cost of an event like this proves that producers know that the decisions discerning city consumers make when they purchase, will make or break their rural businesses.

Foodscape Tours visits Feast Farms

If you wanted to lean on the fence and chat to a real producer though, why not book a wonderful Foodscape Tour? Spend a day chatting to South Coast Food producers and not only chat about the food, but get to taste it too!