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.

After the rain….at last.

Welcome rain has filled the dam at Foxground this week.  Very much a relief after the longest, hottest dry spell in memory apparently.

Zucchini, capsicum and eggplant at Foxground

Zucchini, eggplant and capsicum.

Temperatures nearing 50C and way below average rainfall has caused all sorts of problems for farmers along the South Coast. There has been a feed crisis for our dairy farmers which places enormous strain on herds, farmers, their budgets and families. Still $1/L for milk?….seriously?!

Mid summer heat stress

Heat stress – shedding leaves mid summer.

This good soaking 180mm over 3 days will really help, and you can see the paddocks greening up almost immediately. Good follow up rain over the next few weeks and months is obviously critical to really make a difference.

Pigs in mud

Soaking it up – piggies love the mud!

There’s not much you can do when the soil is as wet as it is at the moment, but it is just so lovely to be in the garden, and see everything flourishing.

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The little creek, once again flowing past the vegies

My most favourite thing is the new sounds. Wet sounds. The creek ‘babbling’, the frogs chorus. I just wish there was a picture to express how amazing sounds ‘look’.

Frog on the reeds

Tiny blue-black frog on the reeds, by the dam

I guess on a blog, this will have to do….   🙂

Rainy day visitors

Whilst quite thankfully able to choose to stay in today, these fellows can’t. This beautiful baby Eastern Koel braves the endless rain to feast on the last of the season’s cherry tomatoes. Prolific this year, most of them (the tiny toms!), have been slow roasted in the oven (120C for 4-6 hours) then bottled with whole garlic cloves, organic extra virgin olive oil and oregano – all ready for a winter of scrumptious pasta bakes and moussaka.

Juvenile Eastern Koel - above feasting on cherry tomatoes

This delicate swamp frog (I know, because we are lucky to have Michael Fox, THE ‘Frog Man’ living in our street), is loving the endless wet weather. Talking to The Frog Man is inspiring – for that matter, don’t you think talking to anyone about their passion is inspiring… regardless of what it is? Even frogs? I think Eckhart Tolle puts it best:

“Joy does not come from what you do, it flows into what you do and thus into this world from deep within you… That’s why anything you enjoy doing connects you with the power behind all creation.”

Some things revel in the rain.