biodiversity in the garden, explore growing, homegrown

The Way of The Watermelon

 

AAhhh the taste of summer. The vine seems to grow for months and then finally you notice the tiniest glimmer of a fruit. Check back in a week or two and it seems as if someone has got the bike pump out and inflated the sucker !! The thunk of a super ripe and ready to eat fruit when you slice into it. Sitting on the back deck spitting seeds at each other.

Prepare the bed-  plant- water set forget. That’s how it happened over the far side in our backyard. Plenty of sun too. Several months later (around 4), peel away the vines and ta da!!! Gifts from the garden. Of course, none of this is possible without your friendly neighbourhood pollinators. Keep your backyard chemical free so you’re not poisoning their food supply. Without our pollinators, around 80 % of the foods we like to eat would disappear.IMG_0825.JPG

 

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The whole anticipation trip is so worth it. I planted maybe a little late, so our watermelons haven’t been ready until the end of summer.

And to think, by planting these in a marginal area (further away from the house and letting them go – watermelons can easily take up a good few square metres per plant, of the fossil fuel saved. No trucking them in from interstate for less than a dollar per kilo retail. I guess what you’e really trucking is sweet water. Maybe encourage a local school or a community garden to get them in nice and early. Find somewhere for the watermelon to roam.

A fresh slab of this cheery fruit on a really warm day is reward enough. Beats an icy pole hands down.

 

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.

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autumn, explore growing

Looking forward

You also need to look back, see where you’ve come from to make sense of the forward journey. So on my way back from the market garden,heading south  this is what I check out…..

Feels a little like structured chaos.IMG_0795.jpg

As of a few days ago, when I pause for a cuppa, looking north is a whole new adventure…..

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That ply sheeting (which thankfully was sealed before the rain came) is the base layer for a whole new ecosystem. A roof to grow which if the engineering and the headspace required are anything to go by, is going to be absolutely incredible. Amongst the treasures going up, 50 m2 of no dig garden beds. An increase of 10% on the market garden ON THE ROOF.

Right now it feels like a helicopter will land any moment.

As I look up the hill and see little no dig beds, seedlings, figs trees huddling together, I have to think of far the garden has grown instead of how much work there still lies ahead. Such a humble start –  a dozen pots hugging a northern wall 6 years ago and enough grass slashed to make a human sized nest for the whole family.

At least the roof top is clear and tidy.

collaboration

Brace yourself

Any reasonable sized project requires a little plotting and scheming – especially if you’re working with reclaimed materials and even more so if you’re trying out techniques you’re unfamiliar with. Like earthen floors and a turf roof.

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So this little studio was the test pilot for her big sister. Start small and learn.

Soil on a roof top weighs a lot, then add water, Thermal mass is super important as our neck of the woods really heat up over summer. The original concept was as an inside outside house. Dwelling in the cosy heart, nap, quiet read, (no wifi reception was an accidental bonus) storage around the periphery so it’s possible to access from the garden.

It’s a happy space. Loads has been learnt. The earth floor only took two attempts. Drainage around the site was a major piece of the puzzle, sitting at the bottom of a hill as it does. The studio has beautiful and unplanned carving over the door, thanks to one of our lovely passionate volunteers. He saw the space and asked permission to fill it.The only first thing you see in the morning is greenery and chickens.

Many hands helped to craft this building. Many materials were gifted, but this didn’t make them any lighter to carry.  Neighbours were called in last minute to help maneuver experimental wall panels destined for landfill into place. Sometimes I like to think I have very mild superpowers, but reality set in and I’ve come to realise weightlifting isn’t one of them.

I was asked for input on the bracing (so it looked more ornamental than purely vertical), this idea was sketched. Kinda like pick up sticks, dropped. To get the beautiful finish (and shortcut to the roof for the kids). Timber was de- nailed. Planed. Measured into place. Edges were chamferred. Cut. Hidden nails. Bio oiled. Now a work of art. Can’t even remember how long just that element took, but when you’e crafting living buildings it’s all about an energy exchange.

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.

 

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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.

biodiversity in the garden, everyday

Wonder bowl

Ever wonder where your food comes from ? Thought about how much energy it takes ? Know the person who grew it ? Maybe the region it came from ?

Every now & again I do. It’s pretty cool to actually know a few answers to questions now & again.

So this photo was lunch today. Stir fried in 10 min and enjoyed with our new HelpX volunteer.

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Left overs and backyard offerings. A tiny beetroot, corn, shallots, baby eggplant, pumpkin, radish and cucamelon within walking distance. Rice grown by Randalls – an Australian organic family farm, Chinese cabbage from our truly amazing and recently renovated Flametree Co-op (I also buy our tamari and olive oil in bulk here.)

So apart from lunch looking a little lumpy, it’s also got loads of colour, texture and energy. Eat a rainbow. try to give yourself enough time to enjoy it.

Super cool thing about hunting around locally, (see if you’ve got a local Food Is Free Table people drop and swap at in your area) is you get the flavour of independence. Sometimes things that aren’t mainstream. And most certainly foods that are in season for your region.

Try to make a little time and indulge yourself.

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everyday, seasonal eating

Real food is happy food

There’s a fair amount of talk around what type of food to eat, how to eat it, when best to eat. Fresh is best, especially when it’s seasonal and if you can access relatively locally produced food – fantastic.

But like many kids ask – WHY ? My definition of real food is produce grown by people with care of the soil as their number one priority. This extends into care for their environment, care for people working with them and doing what’s right, not wasting resources but looking at the whole picture, not merely one tiny detail. It’s about nurturing and putting hard earned knowledge and skill into growing really fabulous tasty produce. Soil that is loved is nutrient dense and alive. You’ll find biodiversity above and below your feet. You can see it. You’ll tap into a life force rather than entering into commodity trading. (Which I reckon a lot of big box retailers do – they have different goals to your independent grower.)IMG_0642.jpg

I actually did this the other day – purchased a ‘commodity’ from a big box retailer for our dinner – my brain had stopped working after a particularly big day and the cogs had jammed. The packaging looked pretty and I knew the family would eat it. I  snazzed it up with home made sauce to make up for the nutrient deficit. There were clean plate rangers – but I could taste what was missing – life force. Not the end of the world I know – but I missed what I take for granted when I do put the energy in.

Food grown in season gives us what we need for that season. Who’d want to gorge themselves on watermelon in winter ? Or feel the desire to sit down to a big roast dinner when the evening temperature is 27 C?

Remember we’re living beings, not just machines requiring fuel. We need good energy, diversity, light and good water to stay vital – so does our food.