Autumn Bounty

Our gardens are pumping with the cooler temperatures and this much-needed rain. We’ve only lost a few crops to the sudden season change, mostly zucchinis and we’re now planting salad greens, celery, leek, cabbages, garlic and many more Winter goodies. I love Autumn!

Basil has been coming out of our ears this summer and it is still showing signs of growth. We’ve bottled well over a year’s supply of pesto. I don’t use pine nuts in my pesto (which mostly comes from China), but instead I use Australian grown organic sunflower seeds or (even better) Australian pesticide-free almonds which I toast lightly and blend with salt, pepper, a bit of garlic and of course, basil and olive oil. Bottle in clean jars and sterilize for one hour. Tadaa!

Our local restaurant Osteria A Mano made a superb traditional pesto with our basil and I get quite a hit when I see our farm produce listed on their menu! It won’t be long until our biodynamic market garden is able to supply a steady flow of goodies, to restaurants and the community.

Last but not least, The Dooralong Produce Swap is rocking! Last month we traded cucumbers, eggplants, capsicums, chillies, spring onions, seasonal herbs, kale, kefir lime, Kombucha, cake, plants and seeds. See you next month!

I love this Valley!

Oh and check out what’s coming up:

 

Letting go – accepting feedback

“Apply self regulation and accept feedback” is one of twelve permaculture principles that comes knocking at my door very often, if not every day.

It is a best friend.
It always tells the truth, sometimes brutal, unadulterated or sugar coated.
It does it with care in mind though.
It challenges me to constantly look, feel, hear, touch and smell the patterns around me and put aside the ego.
It teaches or reminds me to be vulnerable.
It slaps me in the face, sometimes.

To apply self-regulation you need to read the patterns around you, and within you.You need to be honest with yourself. You need to be reasonable. You need to be in control. You need to step back, and remove yourself from the subject that needs self-regulation. You get a better view that way. You need to not see things from a I want point of view.

To accept feedback is akin (to me) to consciously offer my face to be slapped. It is a hard process. I know that it is coming.  I know how it will feel. I brace against it. Then SLAP. (ouch).

Only then can letting go happen.

pushing details into a pattern

One boysenberryI wanted to grow berries, all sorts of berries. Strawberries, boysenberries, raspberries, loganberries, mulberries… Wanted.

Isn’t is funny (in a sad kind of way) that I never had berries in my permaculture design of this place? I had it all figured out at the time that we didn’t have the right growing conditions for it, and I also knew that I wouldn’t like to prune and train canes onto a structure, pull suckers, etc…

But… I wanted. So I will have.

And as I drooled over plant catalogues (it’s called plant porn) and salivated at the idea of homemade raspberry jams and blackberries smoothies, I went ahead and acquired all sorts of berry plants which I duly planted into the ground…. therefore working against the climatic conditions, the soil conditions, and my own dislike to prune or train berries!

This is pushing the details onto the pattern.

Permaculture design is about patterning first, then finding the details that fit the pattern. It is about observing the native patterns of one’s landscape and using biological resources appropriate for that pattern for the purpose of building shelter, growing food, producing energy, etc.

Why on earth did I go ahead  knowing that?
Well, I am only a mere mortal, with ego, wants, and dreams. I love challenges. I am stupid.

hear the feedback from our land

Caged strawberryBut today, I am giving up. Decision was made this morning after I (at last) accepted to hear the feedback from our land that we can’t grow berries here.

  1. We get blasted by sun radiations in our little valley, especially at the time when berries are growing and should give flowers and fruits. I ended up stretching a thick UV shelter above them which came at a co$t as I didn’t find a second hand one at the time.
  2. Our sandy loam soils, despite being heavily mulched and fertile, drain super easily. Irrigation is compulsory to obtain berries that are plump. We don’t irrigate. So cane berries are thin and feeble, flowers are sparse and the occasional fruit is irrelevant to making jams!
  3. Suckers pop in everywhere or canes left un-pruned manage to layer on contact with the ground (great technique for propagating them!).
  4. Wildlife comes in hordes and lash out onto the berries, not even ripe, leaving only a few to us. I celebrated this year when we had three each to eat!!!
  5. Netting cane berries is a nightmare.
  6. Building a permanent infrastructure around the berries is ludicrous – it would cost less in energy (money, materials, time, etc) to buy certified organic berries in plastic punnets (hic!) every day when they’re in season.
  7. The bellbirds, the bower birds, the cat birds, the king parrots and the fruit dove all love berries.
  8. The bush rats love berries.
  9. The ants love berries.
  10. I love berries! But I love my sanity more.

So I am giving up. I will pull all my cane berries and give them away to those with better growing conditions. Maybe that way, I’ll get to eat some.

 

Find me there:

  • Dooralong Produce Swap (note the new date: 3rd Sunday of the Month – Dooralong Oval – 3.30pm)
  • Permaculture Central Coast monthly talks (3rd Tuesday of the Month – Tuggerah Hall – 7pm)
  • Or contact me directly on Facebook or email

Farm animals and heat waves

Chooks, ducks, rabbits and dogs (and certainly others) don’t sweat to cool their body temperature… they pant. When they don’t succeed at cooling down, well, they die of heat exhaustion. It’s very quick and mostly irreversible.

We love all our critters here and we care for them. None of our animals are confined in temperature-controlled cages though. None (oh well, apart from our new pets, two Pigmy Bearded Dragons that, frankly, don’t much care about heat wave for they live in 35°-40°C temperature every day!). All our animals are on pasture.

In nature, these animals will find shelter in burrows or in the cool shade of a forest. Being permies, we have to mimic this ecosystem as well as we can knowing that Mr. Fox, Mrs. Wild Dogs and Mr. Goanna are always watching… so we’ve got to keep our animals safe away from their reach… tricky!

Below are pictures that shows our setup when Summer heat arrives.

 


Enrolling nowWanna learn how to incorporate animals in a resilient permaculture system? See you at our next Part-time Permaculture Course held on our farm in Jilliby (NSW Central Coast) – 5 August to 11 November 2017

 

 

 

Tansy against flies

Summer brings out the flies – fruit fly, bush fly, house fly, vinegar fly, cluster fly, sand fly, horse fly, blow fly…

Flies are annoying at best, painful at worst. They lay eggs where their young will forage and soon maggots pulse and swarm in a truly disgusting sight.

I have come, though, to appreciate their place in the ecosystem…

  1. Without flies, there are no maggots.
  2. Without maggots, dead stuff rots, stinks and attracts vermin.
  3. Birds lose their food source.
  4. Nutrient cycles are interrupted.
  5. Etc..

So, we need the flies.

However, a fly buzzing in the house or around the Sunday lunch on the veranda is not welcome.

Plants come to the rescue

I grow Tansy in strategic locations around the farm. Although admittedly not as potent as as an insecticide aerosol or an electric fly zapper (isn’t it fun to chase a fly with an electric racquet?!?!?) which aim is to destroy the animal, Tansy helps us shoosh away the pesky insect. It has other useful functions too.

Tansy is a perennial herbaceous plant known for its insect-repellent attributes (deterring many non-nectar eating insects). It grows stems up to 1m. In early summer, the button-like flowers bloom and attract beneficial insects. Tansy grows in almost any kind of soils, either part-shade or full sun. In late autumn, you can cut back hard the plant to keep it a bushy form. Dry the stalks first before composting (they take roots easily).

  • In the veggie patch and the food forest, they act as companion plant and integrated pest management: it is known to repel ants, cucumber beetles, Japanese beetles, squash bugs, fruit fly, among others.
  • Around the veranda, the wind or heat disperses the insect-repelling fragrance.
  • Fresh stems hung at the doors or on window sills will repel flies.
  • Rubbed on hair or farm clothes, or crushed leaves placed inside a hat or socks will deter horse and bush flies.
  • Fresh leaves placed on the fruit basket will deter vinegar flies.
  • Cut flower stalks can be brought inside the house or used in pot-pourri.

Other useful functions

  1. Tansy increases the potassium content in the soil.
  2. Pluck the leaves to add to your compost.
  3. Make compost-tea (liquid manure) by soaking Tansy leaves in a bucket of water for a week.
  4. Tansy is attractive to honeybees.
  5. It has both medicinal and culinary uses.
  6. Dried tansy can be used in a bee smoker.

 

Bring your garden produce to swap with some of my tansy plants from at the next Dooralong Produce Swap (2nd Sunday of the month -8 January- along with “Music in the Park”, 2-4pm. Swap starts at 3.30pm.)

 

WARNING:

  • Tansy is toxic to some browsing/grazing animals.
  • Stems root easily – dry well before composting.

See you at one of our courses to learn more about permaculture  and how to design a truly sustainable garden!

  • Part-time Permaculture Course held on our farm in Jilliby (NSW Central Coast) – 8 August to 18 November 2017
  • Intro to Permaculture (info coming soon)

Keeping the soil food web alive

It took me six years of gardening to come to the conclusion that my garden watering schedule was detrimental to my soils.

I saw “watering” the garden as a mean to “provide moisture to the plants”. I forgot that the soil micro organisms need a drink too.”

A large number of the plants survived on irregular watering, done on ad hoc basis when once a finger dipped into the soil indicated that they were probably already thirsty. Watering was mostly done by hand, with a watering can, with a spray-trigger attached to a gardening hose, or with a DIY sprinkler system, and often at the wrong time of the day when the sun was already quite high in the sky.

Watering with a watering can is ok for small gardens or if the garden is designed using passive water harvesting techniques such as beds carved on contour, and if your soils are already moisture retentive with a large clay content.

But my soils are sandy-loam. They drain fast. They become water repellent. The compost that I lay on top, and the mulch are good ways to delay the desiccation process, but they are not effective enough. Life in the soil finds it hard to sustain these irregular watering schedule and slowly, they die. A stressed soil leads to a stressed plant.  A stressed plant invites pests. A sudden input of large amount of water invites fungal attack and nutrient leaching. And the degenerative cycle goes on.

A sustainable and bountiful harvest depends on a resilient soil where soil biota flourishes by feeding, digesting, defecating, procreating, dying.

These microorganisms are the ones responsible for your plant health – not the nutrient you add to your soils. Through their life processes, they make those nutrient available to plants. And the moisture in the soil makes them soluble, suck-able by plant roots. Like a smoothy is easily suck-able through a straw as opposed to trying to suck the raw ingredients.

So a change had to be made. I bit the bullet and installed drip irrigation systems which sits on top of the soil, under a layer of compost and mulch. The soil biota feeds of the compost and the plants bounce up straight, alive, full of moisture and nutrients.

So drip irrigation is indeed, not a method to irrigate your plants, but one of keeping your soils alive and well.

 

 

Check out my other watering techniques.


See youEnrolling now at our next Part-time Permaculture Course held on our farm in Jilliby (NSW Central Coast) – 5 August to 11 November 2017