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!

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to everyone! Thanks to all those who have supported us in our journey throughout the year and we look forward to more fun and games in 2013!

Below is a photo update of the market garden. Last year’s plot is now 2/3 drip irrigated. I am slowly installing the lines as each bed goes in. Still watering direct seed by hand, but once they have established, then the drip lines take over. As funds increase, I will also add a tap to every line, so that the beds can be individually turned on and off so as to minimise water wastage when they are fallow.

Anyway, here’s to another jam packed year of living:-)

The no dig potatoes are coming along well. The purchased seed potatoes are doing much better than the ones saved... May have to just buy them next season to ensure a good crop.

The no dig potatoes are coming along well. The purchased seed potatoes are doing much better than the ones saved… May have to just buy them next season to ensure a good crop.

Market garden corner shot

Under planting of pumpkins with the corn and beans are going well.

Under planting of pumpkins with the corn and beans are going well.

Corn, beans and pumpkins growing together well. Each batch of corn has been staggered. There are currently 4 beds of 100 corn plants, 10 pumpkins and 40 beans in each bed, with another 4 to go. Each bed is planted 2 weeks apart.

Corn, beans and pumpkins growing together well. Each batch of corn has been staggered. There are currently 4 beds of 100 corn plants, 10 pumpkins and 40 beans in each bed, with another 4 to go. Each bed is planted 2 weeks apart.

Going to go a little easy on the radish. They are so easy to grow, prolific and quick to harvest. Have learnt to stagger them instead of feast and famine.

Going to go a little easy on the radish. They are so easy to grow, prolific and quick to harvest. Have learnt to stagger them instead of feast and famine.

The girls have been fenced off into a larger paddock now. The pasture still has some green to it, but is quickly browning off with this dry summer. Fingers crossed should have enough feed until the autumn break...

The girls have been fenced off into a larger paddock now. The pasture still has some green to it, but is quickly browning off with this dry summer. Fingers crossed should have enough feed until the autumn break…

Our brassicas will be planted under netting to keep the cabbage moth out. Working perfectly so far!

Our brassicas will be planted under netting to keep the cabbage moth out. Working perfectly so far!

Lettuce with a middle row of beetroot. This planting pair has worked beautifully!

Lettuce with a middle row of beetroot. This planting pair has worked beautifully!

Zucchini galore! Yellow, stripped and the good old faithful black beauty! They are now growing out of our ears!

Zucchini galore! Yellow, stripped and the good old faithful black beauty! They are now growing out of our ears!

Nothing beats home grown heritage tomatoes!  We have Money Maker (I wish...), Grosse Lisse, Black Russian, Romas and Break O'Day. They are coming along well and pruning laterals seems to be producing higher quality fruit this season.

Nothing beats home grown heritage tomatoes! We have Money Maker (I wish…), Grosse Lisse, Black Russian, Romas and Break O’Day. They are coming along well and pruning laterals seems to be producing higher quality fruit this season.

Tomatoes underplanted with zucchinis

Tomatoes underplanted with zucchinis

We are leaving this lot to save the seeds. Should get a gazillion seeds from this lot :-)

We are leaving this lot to save the seeds. Should get a gazillion seeds from this lot 🙂

Colourful carrots:-) It is hard keeping the boys off this batch!

Colourful carrots:-) It is hard keeping the boys off this batch!

Ava-Li loves her peas. She just won't leave them alone! So much so that they will not be making it into customer vegie boxes!

Ava-Li loves her peas. She just won’t leave them alone! So much so that they will not be making it into customer vegie boxes!

The smell of these turnips  is amazing! If they taste half as good as they look then we are in for a treat!

The smell of these turnips is amazing! If they taste half as good as they look then we are in for a treat!

Our grafts are going well as is the small batch of tree lucerne I am experimenting with.  Will do another batch and plant everything out in the autumn/winter.

Our grafts are going well as is the small batch of tree lucerne I am experimenting with. Will do another batch and plant everything out in the autumn/winter.

The tiny greenhouse is holding it's own.

The tiny greenhouse is holding it’s own.

This fig cutting will hopefully provide us with heaps of figs in the coming years! It is loving it's home in the tiny greenhouse at the moment.

This fig cutting will hopefully provide us with heaps of figs in the coming years! It is loving it’s home in the tiny greenhouse at the moment.

Purple peas

After a horror start with seedlings (damn slugs) our cucumbers are starting to set fruit!

After a horror start with seedlings (damn slugs) our cucumbers are starting to set fruit!

Potatoes are my favourite veg and their flowers aren't too bad looking either.

Potatoes are my favourite veg and their flowers aren’t too bad looking either.

Potato flower More potato flowers

Back to business.

Spring has truly sprung! The weather has been up and down like a yo-yo, with horribly wet, windy and cold weather last week and warm and sun forecast for this week! The vegies are really kicking off with the extra daylight hours and we are finally back into the swing of things. All the productive gardens, orchard, berries and herbs have had a good spray of beneficial microbes, seasol, fish emulsion and liquid compost and this should really give them a boost for the coming growing season. I plan on continuing the spraying regime once a fortnight and hopefully everything will thrive and set in for the summer. Our Highland cows will soon be back to their once daily rotation, with maybe another week or two in their current paddock. The sheep are being rotated each fortnight at this stage and are now not able to keep up with the quick growth of the spring flush. The lambs are fattening up quickly and “Gammy” our house sheep, is doing well.

In our market garden extension, the potatoes in the no dig beds are sprouting well and it will be interesting to see what kind of harvest we get from them this year. In between each bed I plan to lay thick layers of newspaper and large quantities of compost and manure and thick layer of straw mulch on top of that. The plan is to plant into the straw in a good handful of quality compost. The compost should then inoculate the straw and manure, allowing the plants to take-up all the nutrients they need. Once again we will see how well this method works compared to the more conventional way of growing. Also I will be trialling a green manure crop, sown between potato beds, allowed to grow until just flowering and then slashed and used as a chop and drop mulch and growing bed. The seedlings will grow into the mulch in a good handful of compost.

Speaking of compost, at my PDC course, we learnt about making good quality microbial compost based on a 30:1 carbon to nitrogen ration. Compost should be ready in 18 days. So far I am up to day 11 and it is really looking good! Maybe a little too hot, as I have some white powder growing, but easily rectified. By the end of the week, I should have beautiful rich, microbial compost ready to spread and inoculate the soil! Below is a video after the 4th day.

In the current market garden, I have been busily preparing the beds for our coming vegie crops. I have forked each bed to break up the clay panning of the rotary hoe and the difference this has made to the drainage has been amazing. We got 20mm of rain over the past couple of days before today and where I had not forked, water was pooling, but where I had forked, the water had drained away nicely. It was still a little wet to work too much, but I was able to shape another couple of beds today and seeded them with turnips and sweedes. Each bed is about 8 meters long by about 900mm wide. On the high side of the bed, I have dug a small trench, forked it to aerate it, lay down the weeds I have pulled up and then a thick layer of straw mulch on top of that. The worms will go crazy for the decomposing weeds and the trench will act as a mini swale, storing and slowly draining water through the growing bed.

Back to weekly sales now with weekly deliveries. The sun has been amazing, working listen to the children play just 5 meters away and then having them all join me to weed the beds and hunt for worms, or help me seed the trays has been gold. Ahhhh life is good on the farm:-)

Prep for Potatoes

Part of the new potato patch where the cows had been feeding.

Winter has really set in here at the farm. Today it has been raining non-stop and looking on the radar, there is plenty more to come. We were toying with having a working bee to weed and prep the market garden for the coming season, however are really glad that I checked the weather bureau’s forecast before putting out the call.

We are halfway through the year now, being the 1st of July, and the rain tally is pretty much spot on the halfway mark of the average for our area with 336.5mm. Over the past few weeks, the rain has pretty much been unrelenting, and today was fold moving day. They have been grazing up close to the house block, in an area I will be planting out the potatoes this coming season. They are being feed hay as there has not been enough growth in the paddocks to sustain them to a healthy level. I could leave them and they would be fine until the spring growth, however, prefer they are looked after well and fed hay to keep them nice and healthy.

The area they have been eating has had a fair amount of cow ones and twos spread out as they are eating and the remaining hay that has been trampled, will be used with our compost, chicken manure and the neighbors endless supply of horse manure, to create an amazing, organic, no-dig style potato patch. Once the potatoes have been harvested, we should then have an area still rich in nutrients for other crops to be planted. Yes the cows will have compacted the soil somewhat, however, I will use the sub-soiler (mean looking Fergie ripper) to aerate and break the soil up before planting.

So today I moved the fold, and got completely soaked in the pouring rain for my effort…

At least the cows are happy and healthy.

The girls happily eating their hay. Fertilising and spreading their goodness.

Our first sale!

The title says it all! Today we made our first sale of produce from the farm! Potatoes, pak choi and rhubarb. Things in the market garden are slowly setting fruit (the weather hasn’t exactly been warm, I have been wearing a beanie for the last few days!) and soon we will have produce coming out of our ears, just in time for me going back to work work, where I will be able to drum up some more business.

Thanks to Wayne, Helen, Niamh and Zara for being customers number 000001!

A basket of goodies for our first happy customers! Hopefully many more to come!

Our first Highland Heritage Honey!

Our first honey rob, I mean, honey harvest today! I suited up (proper suit this time not dodgy suit) and got the smoker fired up. On my way to collect leaves and bark for the smoker, I saw something moving along the tree line. “Damn bloody fox is game” I thought, but on closer inspection it was not Mr Fox, it was Blinky Bill! A koala was going for a stroll along the fence line and climbed a tree for a sleep! Pretty amazing I must say. I called the family out and they loved seeing their first koala on the property. Kobe-Li’s comment summed it all up, “This place is really special Ba!” Yes it is Kobe-Li, yes it is.

Back to the honey, I only got out 2 frames from the super and modified the frames to slowly convert the hive into Warre hives, basically a topbar hive in a box: http://warre.biobees.com/index.html. They will be a little easier to maintain and I will do the crush and strain method of extracting honey. From the 2 frames we got 2.6kgs of beautiful amber honey. Amazingly sweet and finger lickin good! Interestingly, the honey from this hive was made mainly from the Bacchus Marsh pollen (that’s where I got the hive from a few weeks ago), and while I had my gear on I inspected my original hive which has spent close to a year here so the honey is from this area. The taste difference was very very significant! I much fuller taste with a stunning after taste! Can’t wait to do a proper harvest of our original hive.