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.

Fungus fetish…

Fungi are critical to the organic web of life in the soil that is so important in any garden. Most of the work they do is unseen, hidden in the soil.  When they do ‘pop up’ though, I think they are one of the most  beautiful things around.

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Peeking up through the mulch…

Beautiful and useful though.  Among other things, they ‘lock up’ nutrients in the soil, storing them until they are needed.  They prevent leeching of vital elements, and keep them readily available to the plant’s roots.

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Dinner plate size, with tiger collar…

They also help maintain moisture in the soil, which means they are very busy at the moment, after our very wet February.  Sadly, we have lost a lot of plant rows to excessive water in the soil. All our parsley and kale, that was growing so well, has not enjoyed the ‘big wet’ and has sadly died.

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Fairy toadstool

So more fungi will move in, as they are also the great de-composers in a garden, breaking down dead plant and animal material into components that can be used by other organisms.  In fact, you would not have an organic garden without them.

Blossoms by the creek

Blossoms by the creek

Lucky they are so beautiful.  Busy de-composing. Stopping me in my muddy tracks, fumbling for my camera…

 

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.

Thanks, and please weed on…

Everything is growing, growing, growing… especially the dock, fireweed, Kikuyu, and the bill at the irrigation supplies shop….. but Feast Farms have invoiced their first customers – yay! (teeny amounts, but it’s a start).

Tom at Foxground – November 2012

Most importantly though, we (my wonderful, patient, often dragged along for the ride, family), are all still smiling and enjoying the learning. Many thanks to our wonderful markets customers each week, to Green Box and The Little Blowhole Cafe who are supporting our efforts, and of course to our friend Kerry, without whose generosity, none of this would be possible.

The gorgeous Kerry at one of our dawn meetings!

We had a visit from a Land journalist a few weeks ago, so keep an eye out for the early December issue of the paper for the ensuing story. Jacqueline is bringing Foodscape Tours to visit for the next three Saturdays which will be fun too. All the excitement just means one thing to me though… boy have I got a lot of weeding to do! Anyone want to come and help? I can pay in lettuces…. 🙂

My piggy tale…

Using pigs to till the soil has been an experiment with mixed results. There is no doubt pigs do a great job of turning the soil and eating the roots of the unwanted weeds and grasses. But once they reached about 70kg, P1 & P2 (who remained un-named so that apparently it would make it easier to truck them off to the abattoir at 6 months old…), actually damaged the soil, especially once it became wet after rain.

Saying good bye to P2

I had been hoping that raising the pigs, and selling them for meat would help with funding my market garden setup, but the project was lucky to just break even. This wasn’t helped by my choosing to pay a premium for transport to abattoir, to ensure they were shipped as comfortably and quickly as possible. I thought I was pretty cool and tough about the whole process, until P2 (above) wandered over and sat beside me as I filled his water dish for the last time, and then crooned while I scratched behind his ears.

Was there really any chance they would walk quietly with a collar and lead?!

So, would I do it again? It has been nice to hear the favourable feedback from those who have eaten our tasty pork, and to know that it is being enjoyed all over the place by friends and family, but Andrew and I won’t eat it. We do have two new pigs, shown here (above) with Harriet lifting them into their enclosure. But these miniature variety are not destined for the plate, and more than that, they have been rescued as they were surplus to requirements of a children’s nursery animal business. I am hoping their smaller size will be gentler to the soil whilst still tilling the weeds, and they have names – Calvin and Hobbs. Now that feels better.

Crave 2012 in pictures…

I know the Crave Sydney International Food Festival is all about the food, but to us it meant teamwork! The very organised and talented Jacqueline and her Foodscape Tours coordinated our big day a few weeks back, but it wouldn’t have been the fabulously fun day it was without our wonderful friends and family pulling together. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves…

So many thanks to our wonderful guests for ‘giving us a go.’

Curious sticky beak spectator

Bunting (and all these photos) courtesy of the gorgeous Adelaide

Fresh pickings…

Many thanks also to Bev, Will & Antonella for allowing us to visit their lovely, hillside garden

Amazing, delicious lunch by Di of A Bite on the Side – service with a big Harriet smile!

Beautifully decorated thanks to Vanessa – The Wedding and Events Creator

A long table lunch courtesy Barry and Monique at Mountain Ridge Winery

Very many thanks to all, and we hope to use our enormous amount of learning from the day to make it even bigger and better next year! XO

Spring is sprung

Travelling through Exeter in the Southern Highlands on the weekend, the signs are very clear that nature just wants to get growing.

Daffodils herald spring by a gatepost in Exeter

Longer, warmer days mean it’s time to stop dreaming, planning and talking, and get to work. Whilst the established gardens look amazing out the front at Warwick Park in Foxground, the land to the back where my pigs have been busy preparing soil all winter, is a blank canvas waiting for the brush (or the seedlings and tines in this instance!)

The beautiful spring garden at Warwick Park in Foxground

The pigs can’t take all the credit for this fabulous preparation though. My wonderfully clever Andrew has been having fun with a little walk-behind tiller for which he designed and built a bed-forming attachment.

Ready, set, go….planting time!


I also have to confess to meeting Nicko. For months Kerry has talked about Nicko…”Nicko will fix that pipe/fence/bridge.” Then one day two weeks ago I met the amazing Nicko. “How would you like me to go over this with my tractor and tiller?” he said. Now, the pigs have been great, but they are s-l-o-w. So Nicko worked his magic with his mechanical horse, and the cost? “A couple of cauliflowers when they’re ready will do”. Wow. I just love living ’round here.

Like a pig in…

The dream is a tractor. A red one. And a trailer with all the custom tools and bed forming attachments. A motor that hums along perfectly aligned rows of rich, black soil. Effortlessly nurturing and manicuring my productive, organic Feast Farm. There’s going to have to be a lot of veggies sold before that day though, and in the meantime, these guys are going to give me a hand.


What a bit of fun! The little sounds these 7 week old boys make are sooooo cute! They seem to love their new, cosy little home, which will be moved across the paddock as they finish digging under the grass and snuffling through the surface of the soil. Piggy tractors. I could stand and watch them for hours. Like a pig in mud.

Enjoying the new little entertainers…

The winter wait…

Sure, there are lots of lovely winter veggies around (the Seven Cedars snow peas have been running out of the markets!), but most things in even the most established gardens are getting along in slow motion. I was very lucky to get to visit Geoff and Anne Long’s very pretty Foxground garden last week, and with the exception of some kale and rhubarb, things are very quiet.

Anne Long & Andrew Britton

In this garden though, like all the others, there is a sense of resting; a pause. A peaceful contemplation in preparation for the bursting forth in spring. This beautiful block below at Warwick Park in Foxground is the site of a market garden in the planning for spring this year.

Warwick Park - before...

In two weeks time, and thanks to Buena Vista Farm, two little pigs will be commissioned to begin ’tilling’ the soil in preparation for spring plantings. All the plans are lining up, and it’s all go… well it will be… in spring. I can’t wait to get planting. But we just have to hurry up and wait…