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

No-Dig Potatoes Coming Through!

Both TL and AL have found their favourite seat!

It has been about 8 weeks since I started the no-dig style potato beds and they have started to pop up. I have given them another layer of manure, compost and straw and will now leave them to develop into hopefully, a very large crop of potatoes! This weekend, I put in another two beds, this time a little taller than the previous beds, in the hope that they will 1) settle as the rain hits them and 2) I don’t have to top them up in the coming weeks. These beds are the same length, approx 7mX1m but are about 600mm high. They should settle to about 450-500 high in about a week or so.

2 new beds today. That is a total of 8 beds. By my maths, that makes about 150-160 lineal meters of potatoes!

Potatoes popping through the top of the second helping of manure, compost and straw.

Tomorrow I start a Permaculture Design Certificate course with the man himself, Bill Mollison! This is a very exciting time for me, as although we have designed our farm using permaculture principles, it will be great to see how it can be improved. But on a more significant note, the course then allows me to design and implement so many things at work as well as teach the coming generations of students the importance of a well thought out design and plan for the future! The projects that are happening at the school are absolutely amazing and as momentum builds, more and more people are understanding and embracing the potential of experiential learning as well as starting to change the culture of the school to one that is sustainable!

Spring into Sustainability.

(Picture of wicking beds at old house)

Spring is less than a week away, well at least according to the international meteorological definition of the seasons, Spring is in 5 days. However, according to tilt of the Earth and the Sun, the Spring Equinox in the Southern Hemisphere is not until September 22nd. This gives us plenty of time (not) to get prepared for the next season…

The greenhouse has gone on hold while other more pressing matters are tended to, such as the new potato patch and prepping the current market garden for the next season. Tomorrow (Monday) I will be getting 48 dwarfing rootstock for cherries and pears as well as a variety of scion (buds), all of which are heritage varieties. My grafting skills will really be tested here as will my time management. Spring is definitely on it’s way and the buds need to be grafted before buds explode and late winter to very early spring is the time for this. 48 grafts all done at night as well as potting out…. hmmmm may be pushing it a little  but bring it on!

A few years back, I was lucky enough to visit an art gallery to view works by a friend of mine from work (Lou Callow). At this exhibition, Lou introduced me to a friend of hers Tor Roxborough (the gallery owner) and we got talking about life and sustainable living. At the time, we were living at our old house which had been maxed out with productive gardens, aquaponics, fruit trees and a  section of native and indigenous plants. I spoke to her about our life and what we were trying to achieve and enjoyed Lou’s amazing art work. 3 years on and she has contacted me to find out where I am at in life and to ask me to do a talk on food production and sustainable living! The presentation will be on Saturday 6th October between 1:30-3:30pm at the Bacchus Marsh library. The group holding it is called BaccChat, a new group in the Bacchus Marsh area who are organising readings and talks on a variety of topics, the first of which is about food and agricultural production as well as touching on issues of refugees.

I have to say I am honoured to be asked to do this talk and although somewhat nervous about it all, am very excited at the same time!

The link to the first page of my old blog is http://namhaquachinatoraquaponics.blogspot.com.au/2009/10/what-is-aquaponics-i-hear-you-ask-well.html It is pretty long, but if you have a spare moment or three, have a read and make a comment here 🙂

(Picture of the AP system at old house early not long after cycling)