Earning a living.

The kids all helped to plant potatoes this year and this is the harvest for today.

The kids all helped to plant potatoes this year and this is the harvest for today.

The kids have been helping sporadically on the farm ever since we came here, but this year we decided to take it to another level. They all have their little chores, but nothing really too substantial, but now, they have their chores and they have their “farm jobs”.

The chores are pretty straight forward, tidy the lounge, play area, their bedrooms, empty/fill/set the dishwasher. For their farm jobs, the boys have been given the responsibility of letting the chickens out, feeding them the scraps (Kobe-Li) and collecting eggs (Tano-Li) and Ava-Li turns a tap on and off to give the ducks their water. Added to this, I decided to have them help in planting potatoes this season. Now its time for the harvest and all of them are getting involved, earning a little extra pocket money for every kilo we harvest!

They have each had the chance to spend their earnings, each purchasing a little toy dinosaur, and now they have all decided to save their money to get the “big dinosaur”. It’s great to see that both the boys are understanding that it takes a lot of time and hard work to earn a living – Ava-Li on the other hand just loves being involved:-)

Yay! Growing Season Is Finally Here!

With the consistent warm weather of late and a crazy hot week to come, the market garden is finally starting to thrive! Most of the plants have recovered from the freak December frost, however, a good 50% of the first batch of french beans were lost along with a handful of the tomatoes. Not much you can do about freak frosts really… Our on contour garden beds, with mini swales are working a treat. The swales are heavily mulched with all of the weeds that have been pulled up and last seasons spent crops that didn’t go to the chickens or the cows, under all the mulch, feeding the worms and decomposing away. The idea is to build soil in the swales during the growing season and winter. Once the crops are all done, they will be removed and put into the swales and covered with straw mulch, then a cover crop and green manure will be sown in each bed to over winter. The winter here is just too cold for us to grow surplus food for people on a sustainable level, so this year we will concentrate on extra soil fertility and weed management through green manures and cover crops. Just before the new growing season, the green manures and cover crops will be chopped and dropped and the swales will be emptied of their rich, biologically active, worm castings intense soil, which will be placed on the beds, ready for the coming season, where will will start again with the soil building program. I am still hot composting, but am for going the worm farming, choosing to worm farm in the ground instead. Theoretically it should work well, but we can only wait and see:-)

 

Happy New Year and a photo update.

A massive thank-you and best wishes for the new year to family, friends and customers, who have continued to support us through 2013!

It has been a while since my last post, not due to laziness I promise! The last part of this year has been as hectic as ever and unfortunately, blog entries have suffered. Now with renewed enthusiasm and recharged batteries, 2014 will be blogged to death :-)

Here are some update photos and highlights for the latter part of 2013:

The sunsets in Darwin were amazing! Part of the travelling road show of Sharon McDonough, Rohan Bryan and myself presenting on Sustainability in schools at an ACASA conference.

The sunsets in Darwin were amazing! Part of the travelling road show of Sharon McDonough, Rohan Bryan and myself presenting on Sustainability in schools at an ACASA conference.

Yep, the termite mounds were epic!

Yep, the termite mounds were epic!

Nothing better than swimming at a waterfall:-)

Nothing better than swimming at a waterfall:-)

AHHHHHH!

The photo says it all!

The photo says it all!

Back into home brewing:-)

Back into home brewing:-)

Documenting the film crew documenting us.

Documenting the film crew documenting us.

My trusty little helper, helping with the electric fencing.

My trusty little helper, helping with the electric fencing.

After a week in torrential rain and gale force winds with 28 15 year olds, I went a little crazy...

After a week in torrential rain and gale force winds with 28 15 year olds, I went a little crazy…

Finally, we got Little-little one onto the farm to service the girls. He is a little out of condition - to much grass, too little exercise - but hopefully with a strict diet, he can back into shape and do his thing.

Finally, we got Little-little one onto the farm to service the girls. He is a little out of condition – to much grass, too little exercise – but hopefully with a strict diet, he can back into shape and do his thing.

Yep, the end of a school year and we all go crazy, especially when building wood ovens.

Yep, the end of a school year and we all go crazy, especially when building wood ovens.

These aquaponic tomatoes are going great guns in the greenhouse!

These aquaponic tomatoes are going great guns in the greenhouse!

Plenty of feed for the livestock this winter! No need to buy in hay this time, thanks to our friendly neighbours.

Plenty of feed for the livestock this winter! No need to buy in hay this time, thanks to our friendly neighbours.

Introducing Ari Quach, my new nephew! Congratulations Nam-Do, Liana and Sian :-)

Introducing Ari Quach, my new nephew! Congratulations Nam-Do, Liana and Sian :-)

New cousin!

Home grown dinner! Highland Heritage lamb, garlic, rosemary, thyme and oregano! 4 hour slow roast. Divine!

Home grown dinner! Highland Heritage lamb, garlic, rosemary, thyme and oregano! 4 hour slow roast. Divine!

With our kitchen being commercialised, we now bake sourdough breads for our customers as well as part of our suspended produce and bread program.

With our kitchen being commercialised, we now bake sourdough breads for our customers as well as part of our suspended produce and bread program.

Nothing better than seeing all the family together.

Nothing better than seeing all the family together.

Ava-Li loves her Gramps:-)

Ava-Li loves her Gramps:-)

Dangling Christmas balls look awesome over amazing food being consumed by an amazing family. After giving cancer a good kick up the bum, it is great to see Nan Nan so healthy and with so much energy:-)

Dangling Christmas balls look awesome over amazing food being consumed by an amazing family. After giving cancer a good kick up the bum, it is great to see Nan Nan so healthy and with so much energy:-)

Gramps has much more patience than I! The boys loved working with Gramps to put together their Christmas pressie!

Gramps has much more patience than I! The boys loved working with Gramps to put together their Christmas pressie!

Yep, the tilte is not a typo! Frost damage last weekend... Unreal, middle of summer and we got frost. Tomatoes, zucchinis, beans, corn, cucumber.... all the frost tender plants, got frost bite...

Yep, the tilte is not a typo! Frost damage last weekend… Unreal, middle of summer and we got frost. Tomatoes, zucchinis, beans, corn, cucumber…. all the frost tender plants, got frost bite…

As part of our business and farm ethos, we want to give as much as we can to those in need. We have extended this opportunity to our customers and for every suspended dollar they give, we match it. It works similar to suspended coffee, but with produce and bread instead. Go to http://www.suspendedcoffeemelbourne.com.au/ for more info on suspended coffee.

As part of our business and farm ethos, we want to give as much as we can to those in need. We have extended this opportunity to our customers and for every suspended dollar they give, we match it. It works similar to suspended coffee, but with produce and bread instead. Go to http://www.suspendedcoffeemelbourne.com.au/ for more info on suspended coffee.

So now in 2014, I have begun a new role at my work looking at whole school sustainability, in buildings, grounds and curriculum, which will bring with it many new challenges. It will mean a reshuffle of the routines of managing the farm, the business and life in general, but hopefully will allow for a continued focus of sustainable practices across the board.

Thanks again to all who have supported us in our endeavors and journey in life. Bring on 2014!

Contour Ripping

After a crazily cold night, I felt like getting out into the garden and try to warm-up, but the market garden was much to wet to be able to do anything in without destroying the lovely soil structure. After the recent rains, the market garden has perfectly stored the water in our mini swales and the garden beds (mini-berms) are slowly soaking away. So what to do…

I had made a small a-frame level at work for my fellow permie to mark out an on contour path and stepping stones, so I thought I would make myself one also. Three pieces of  scrap timber, screwed together and a small pouch spirit level screwed on (instead of a plumb bob) and an a-frame level finished, ready for contour plotting. I did test the a-frame on a dead level straight edge and it was spot on! My maths didn’t let me down:-)

I took the a-frame to our “test” paddock. This paddock is heavily compacted and has been fairly well grazed throughout the last season and into this winter. We are resting this one and I thought I may as well mark out some contours and give it a rip. The a-frame worked perfectly and for something that cost about $10 to make, it did a pretty good job! Each point was marked with landscapers paint and then onto the tractor with the Fergie sub-soiler attached and off I went.

Once the contours were ripped, it was much easier to see the “lay of the land” as it were. Between contour rips there is a difference of about 250mm and I am confident that the lines are pretty close to dead level (+/- 10mm) as I tested the top rips with a minor flooding by pumping from the dam. The water spread across the rip mounds and then into the rip lines themselves. Perfect!

It will be interesting to see the difference this makes to the land and the pasture. I can report that the sub-soiler, which went down about 600mm deep, exposed a goodly number of worms which quickly wriggled their way back to safety! A good sign in my books:-)

image

Summer is on the way!

It’s still winter, it’s still cold, it’s still wet and it’s still frosty, but summer is on the way! The winter solstice has come and gone and the days are getting longer…..slowly…. This morning I woke up to -3.7 degrees Celsius, a regular occurrence of late! Being so cold, there has not been a great deal happening in the market garden or the farm for that matter. So I sit, wait, watch and plan and enjoy the warmth of the fire until it all goes into a flurry of activity, signalling the beginning of a new season.

Hopefully the cockatoos  will leave this seasons batch of garlic alone this time!

Hopefully the cockatoos will leave this seasons batch of garlic alone this time!

Perspective

We all have our ups and downs and there are certainly times where I am sure that we have all look up and wondered how we can climb out of the dark hole that we are in. Of recent, this is exactly the predicament that I have found myself in, both at work and on the farm. Being in dark places, it is often challenging to break free and the difficulties faced can and do create a self fulfilling prophecy. It is fascinating that I spent five years of my professional life as a counsellor and saw the difference my support and advice made to the people who sought my ear, yet I am too stubborn – to the point of arrogance – to take some of my own advice, knowing full well the benefits of such. For this very reason I am so grateful that I have a great wife who puts up with my rants, raves and rages and then tells me as it is, changing my perspective on situations and pointing out all of the positive aspects of what has been achieved, while acknowledging the challenges to be faced. And the friends and colleagues who can see and share the vision and understand that positive change takes time and persistence. To them I am also grateful, for when I stare out the window in frustration they are able to bring me back to reality and also point out how far we have come and although there is still a looooooong way to go, the dream of change is becoming a reality.

On the farm, although things are going extremely well, we have only had 117mm of rain to date, and this is including the most recent rain event (which saw an added 15mm to the gauge, where other places within 15kms received up to 40mm). That being said, all of the hard work we have put into the market garden has seen it thrive and flourish despite early frost, no rain and an escaped cow to contend with! All of the manures, compost and mulch we have added through the last two years are really coming into their own in moisture retention and reducing plant stress through periods of dry. The paddocks however are struggling and we really need to keyline rip, and put in our planned swales and dams to allow for water and fertility security. The aim before years end, to put in one swale on our keyline contour which will stretch almost 500m in total, linking two dams. Through the process, I will no doubt enjoy every second of the surveying, pegging, marking, digging, fencing, planning and planting, working with nature to regenerate and improve what we have.

…. after reflecting on the past few days, weeks, months and years, the reality is, I have a beautiful family and the best of friends and am blessed with life. Although there are some dear to us who are ill, they are recovering and it is them who bring us all back to reality. I am no Bill Gates, but I feel like the wealthiest person on Earth.

20130223_172323

So I killed my mother….

Before you all call the police, I’m not talking about my real mother, no no no, my sourdough mother. For the past 12 months or so now, I have making sourdough bread that the whole family can eat. Kobe-Li, even being gluten intolerant, has been able to eat the sourdough bread as the yeast and bacteria in a true sourdough, makes the gluten easier to digest. Ever since eating sourdough, his tummy problems have all but gone. We still have to make gluten free foods, however, sourdough has been so versatile that this has been significantly reduced. Unfortunately, my mother has died… the acidity in the starter had got to a point where it was too strong, hence completely destroying the gluten in the flour. This produced a wet, slack and completely weak dough that I have not been able to satisfactorily bake with. So now I am starting a new starter at the same time as trying to revive my old mother. Hopefully I can bring her back to life, but I am not holding my breath… I miss the soft fluffy textured bread with an amazingly crunchy and sweet crusted bread that I was producing… hopefully I will be able to get it back…