collaboration, community, explore food, salad days

Making friends with salad

So the other day I ran an incursion at an early childhood centre based on the concept of ‘Seed to Salad Bowl’. The youngest ones rolled seeds around planted a few and nimble fingers plucked dill seed from the picnic rug. The next group up planted out their very own salad bowl in a salad spinner. For our final trick with the older kids in the centre,

IMG_1755.jpg

I chopped up tomatoes and cucumbers to show the seeds, passed around slices to try, slid the remaining slices into the bowl and stirred through leaves from the garden – stored in glass to keep them fresh. Asking around why they thought the salad leaves were in a glass jar & the winning answer ‘so people won’t steal them’.

To make our little salad extra snazzy, I dressed it with a little juice from a jar of home preserved lemons. Now this aroma and flavour is not for the feint hearted  – kind of slams into you. Well well – time to eat the salad and I’m so glad I wasn’t standing in between these kids and the salad. Arms lunging into the mix and salad was snorfled. The staff and I looked on with amazement, as these kids just couldn’t get enough.

Dressing on the salad of this morning – one of the younger ones hung back, not to have a chat, nor to play with the seeds, but to help me pack everything back into the bag of tricks – gold.

Salad made with friends.

community, everyday, explore food, explore growing

What is healthy food anyway?

As a lovely girlfriend posted the other day..

Reading can seriously damage your ignorance’

So I try to do as much as possible and across a reasonably broad range, (as long as it has something to do with food.) If I could absorb them just by holding to book – woohoo!!!

The question posed of late – what is healthy food? Does anyone consider the health of the food system when making their purchase/ trade? If it’s healthy for us, is it seasonal or has it come from the other side of the planet? Did that meal need it’s passport stamped? What’s the embodied energy of watermelon in winter?

Price matters hugely to the customer, but what’s the actual cost? Is the farmer treated fairly? I know how much effort goes into growing food, and it takes time and resources. How about all those involved with the supply chain ? Start by growing something in your community, craft a little social change, Disrupt the routine. a household compost system can fill up pretty quickly just from fruit skins – imagine this on an industrial scale.

 

There are some really incredible organizations doing really fabulous work. Check out foodwise for some easily digestible infographics. Ozharvest is loaded with information about the real costs involved, how you can start at home and how you can help them help others.

Play with your food and see how far you go.

autumn, community, explore growing

Learning from the curious

The opportunity to learn should be a right, but quite often I like to think of it as a gift. What a treat to meet someone that spark’s curiosity (or to be the one inspiring others) so much they want to find out more, give you their time and energy to grow.

This is exactly what happened to me last week, but time moving as it does, it went by in a blur. We had a gorgeous group of permaculture students through, seeing how we’ve implemented and overlaid permaculture design principles to our home. Could have happily chatted all day long, as it was – we only had 1 1/2 hours to engage, inspire and faciliate the site visit. I heard we got a tick in the inspiration department, so yay.

 

I LOVE questions. Sometimes it’s tricky to hear everything when we’re all spread out (hot tip 47 – bring people in closer for an outdoor discussion), maybe not everyone heard (hot tip 48 – repeat question so whole group benefits), slowing down to really embrace the minutes together (hot tip 1 – have a plan of the way you’d like to share).

IMG_1024.jpg

So why the mulch ??

We had a question about managing our grass. (Not galahs) Grass fields are great for games, not so good in the market garden. Our answer – manage by mulching – sheet mulch the area.

For this you need a few things – newspaper (our neighbour drops hers over the fence once read – her contribution to our garden), mulch (free woodchip from a local arbourist), moisture (if you’re lucky) and time. Start at the highest point  you wish to eradicate grass from with a pad of around 10 sheets of damp newspaper. Lay the next batch of 10 sheets down, overlapping the 1st set by a good 10 cm. And on you go – ’tiling’ the grass underneath. Cover all with a good 10 cm layer of woodchip and you’re done. The main aim is to deprive the grass of light, making it extraordinarily difficult to grow. Tile from the top so the water can still penetrate to the soil, but keeping the light off the grass. Beware of trying to do this job on a breezy day.

Over time, these layers eventually return to their original material – soil.

Job done – no grass and more soil and a few more people inspired to try stuff out.

Big shout out to Milkwood Permaculture for the really fabulous work they do.

community, everyday, package free

Reuse reuse remember

So we’ve all heard how we need to actually look after our environment if we’d like to have one to live in. Just think of all that aquatic life whose world is being degraded through no fault of their own, Here in the western world, there’s always someone creating a new product to solve a problem we didn’t know existed.

Here in our little patch on the planet, we put so much energy into growing the best produce we can, so the last thing we want to so is wrap it in plastic.

We aim to minimise the resources used here on  site, always hunting around for something we can keep in the system. Styrofoam boxes only live for so long, light weight, not very durable and can readily break up and blow away. These eskies may have been honorary family members once upon a time. Taken on outings, picnics, bringing home the shopping. There’s history in these containers and they still perform well in their primary role. Keeping stuff chilled.

Which is really great for perishables, working people and not using electricity. It also invests customers more in their shopping. Reuse and return. One of our retro numbers even made a cameo at a customers fancy dress party ! You don’t hear of that happening with your standard supermarket packaging.

What do you still use, for it’s primary purpose or other ? Kept it out of landfill and are content to use, even if it’s not this season’s colour ?

Enjoy and give a little more thought to how you can reduce your packaging  – even if it does take a few minutes longer on your shopping expedition.

IMG_0654.JPG

collaboration, community

The next step

Building is one of those biggies. We may want to extend family space, create additional space, make our backyard more multi functional or all of the above.

But what a lot of us non builders don’t realise is, when you say ‘let’s build an independent turf roof covered studio’ it’s not NEARLY that easy. If only.

Once you’ve committed to a big fat hole in the ground (100t of soil excavated), then the questions really start. What are the most environmentally sensitive materials we can use that fit our location, need, budget, accessibitly, council standards,  minimal impact. So – not easy and far far far away from simple.

You may be in a flood prone area. Or bushfire prone region. Or both at the same time. Maybe there are privacy issues for your neighbours. Maybe to make your structure meet regulations, your shopping list may be limited.

 

the next step (building ocnstruction).jpg

BUT – there is a world of wonder and connectivity. You may end up meeting some of the more remarkable people you wouldn’t normally cross paths with. When you’re genuine and treat people like extended family, they give back. A volunteer does 6 hours of working with hardwood above head height, does the dishes and then another 2 hours because they can see how much of a passion project it is. And they’re still smiling.

The food is good at our house, but not that good! All the professionals we’ve had round have been are absolute treasures. incredible stories being woven into the fabric of this building snugged into a north facing hill.

So captured here is the independent stairs, edged in wax wood (rather than any other toxic compound) back filled with gravel for drainage. That massive concrete wall to the right – a water tank doing double time a retaining wall, being on the southern side of the build will stay lovely and cool. Sandstone retaining wall, predominantly from our backyard. Labour of love is an understatement.

Putting the icing on this cake are our glorious neighbours, because without their blessing and driveway, there is no chance of realising this dream. I think we’ll have to create a tribute wall to every single peep involved with the process, as it just goes to show what collaboration can do.

community, everyday, explore growing

Oh hello, New Year !

We’ve slid into the summery bliss of 2018 with heat, humidity, cucumbers and zucchinis.

We harvested just before Christmas, our two colonies have been busy indeed. For this they have our gratitude.

IMG_0360

There’s been time for reflections and daydreams, making time to water before the garden turns into a crisp, making time for family, reading, reading some more, the occasional nap and feeling revitalized for the adventures ahead.

Growing your own food can be incredibly rewarding. Knowing people love what you do, are on the same values page and continue to support you with their hard earned dollars is humbling and great encouragement you’re on the right path.

I read a fair bit. More and more so about food politics, how to grow stuff, how trees talk, the interconnection of everything and how we’ve got a lot to learn about so much. Seems small scale urban agriculture can play a massive role in establishing food security, reconnecting neighbourhoods with real nutritional food and give people a sense of place.

There’s a lot that could be perceived as overwhelming. There’s also a lot to be optimistic about.  I’ve chosen just to start / continue)where I am with what I’ve got and learn from my environment. Small steps in my own backyard.

My word of the year is EDUCATION. The more we’re curious, we ask questions. We feel empowered to try new stuff and and know it’s a learning curve. More fun than standing still.

IMG_0362

This is the foundation of what one day will be our demonstration site. Turf roof covered, north facing, super snug studio. Volunteers are helping us get this out of the ground – energy exchanges make a rich currency around here.

So our focus is educating ourselves, sharing knowledge (volunteering is a great way to see/ experience/ contribute/ learn at large without spending a cent), growing, eating and sharing beautiful produce and regularly taking time to appreciate where we are.

Join us on the ride.

community, observe, spring

Makes me smile

It’s all the little things.

These are in no particular order…..

When someone doing great work is happy to share their experiences with you (thanks to super mentor market gardeners Cal at Green Connect & Lizzie of Piccolo Farm ), when you go into a volunteer in a school garden with a loose plan – you end up with 48 students instead of the regular 24 and everyone has a great time – including the volunteer. (Also stoked with our newly arrived veg garden mascot – miraculously ‘appreared’ one day)

When your remarkable partner helps solve your irrigation issues because he understands you can’t be good at all the stuff all the time and brings home a second hand tank still smiling himself after a very long day, ’cause he knows how important it is to you. (And hooks it up the following day)

It makes me smile when you receive an email showing interest in your enterprise, to find out someone you admire in business has recommended you. (Thank you Ciara at Earthwalker & Co !)

Having enough time and space to share around with the neighbours. (working out where our neighbour will plant chillis and corn this summer)

Being curious enough and brave enough to ask people questions and their opinions when you don’t have the answers yourself.

Variety outside. Being outside. And being barefoot outside. Simple and effective.

Seeing kids impressed and fascinated by checking out the school garden compost worms without squealing.

Having so many ideas you don’t know which way to look, so you just start and it starts working out.

The generosity of people, wanting to be involved and offering their time. (Spring into Action volutneers – you all rock !)

 

So much goodness – it’s all that interconnectedness, collaboration not competition, that keeps our world spinning. Enjoy.