I am in the enviable blogging position of having too much to post today. I have at least 4 posts worth of material ruminating about inside my head and am going to have to divide them (much like amoeba) and sift through their content to make sure that no cross breeding goes on. I have an entire post of how I spent an hour on Sunday with my daughters and what we all created. I won’t be posting about that today because I have photos to jolt my memory for that post and need to document the rest because after a few days it fades into the ether and may never have the opportunity to resurface because my head tends to be constantly crammed full of “stuff” and my poor addled brain spends its days sifting through useless information and discarding it ad hoc (Note to self…you need to pay that poor overworked organ more!). I liken my condition to watching a mole at work. It makes a concerted start on an area of earth and starts flinging soil out in all directions until it achieves its holey goal. Most of the dirt that has been displaced just settles into a moley angle of repose that erodes away to nothing after a few days leaving no trace of mole activity. You wouldn’t even know that a mole had even dug aside from the hole, a few missing turnips and the erroneous dirt. Thus is the fate of my thoughts. The main reason for my visit to town was to attend a Sustainable Food Day. I attended last year and many of you can still remember my aversion to the felt hat brigade. Well I am pleased to say that the felt hat brigades were very conspicuous by their absence this year. It might have been too cold for them and aside from one lady who appeared to have made a career of being negative, the rest of us were there to learn. The most interesting (to me) talk revolved around Biochar and the speaker, Mr Frank Strie, was passionately eloquent about how the process of Pyrolysis can produce carbon negative energy whilst achieving increased soil fertility and locking down carbon in the soil at the very same time. Who couldn’t help but get excited about prospects like that?!
I met an amazing array of people and some of them are shaping up to be wonderful sources of discount information. A group of us are having a meeting this Saturday about Permaculture and what exactly “Zone 1” means. To keep the costs down we are going to meet up in each other’s houses and supply our own food for the duration of the meetings. Some of us live in far flung places and have started applying Permaculture Principals already so it is going to be very interesting to see just what other people are doing with their own little patch of Nirvana. We are building our own communities and taking what we are learning to friends, family and the wider community in the hopes that we can develop real community relationships that work. Frances (how could she NOT be an unmitigated genius with a name like that 😉 ) is also talking about Permablitzes where a group of like-minded Permies (cute name…like Kermit the frog is “Kermie”…) get together and blitz someone’s garden in a day. Everyone gets a turn to share in the work as well as a turn in getting their own garden blitzed. Frances is an amazing person who is incredibly knowledgeable about Permaculture and who has applied it in various places throughout the world. I can’t wait to see what we can do about Serendipity Farm and the obstacles that have now started turning from huge blockades into something usable. The more I learn the more excited I get because we can use our “problems” to work for us. Piles of weeds and debris? No problem! Use them to make weed tea, compost, and mulch or row compost. Soil full of rocks that sets like porcelain in the summer? No problem! Use the rocks to form swales for the problem of the sloped nature and water run-off problem and kill 2 birds with one stone! As our lecturer Nick likes to remind us on a regular basis…”for every action, there is an equal, and opposite reaction”. It’s up to US to work out how to use whatever we have here to gain positive change.
I think that spring is shoving the rear end of winter a little hard this year as it appears to be overriding the cold and ignoring the last bastions of winter. Everything is leafing up and starting to flower and the birds are all agitated and pairing up for the breeding season. I dare say we have a season of chickens just about to land on the doorstep but we are too busy to care at the moment. It would seem that just as nature has increased her activity, so have we. I seem to be steering a course for real activity on Serendipity Farm with all of the information that we have been getting and we are itching to get out into the garden and start working on our first year of vegetable gardening and planting out. We are going to try to get as many of our potted plants into the ground as we can in the next few weeks. Those that remain are going to be repotted and those that we don’t want, rehoused. My mind is a bit of a maelstrom with everything that I am trying to force into it at the moment and all of the new processes that we are starting. Usually winter blends pretty seamlessly into spring around here but this year seems to have an urgency about it that demands to be acted upon so never one to shirk the urgency of a season (who knows WHAT might happen if I did!) we have been rudely awakened from our winter hibernation and flung head first into instant activity. I just received the last of the fermentation books that I ordered from The Book Depository on Monday and an enormous tomb it is. It’s more an explanation of fermenting various things than actual recipes and allows the reader to experiment with ideas. It would seem that just about everything can be fermented and that segues nicely with my next book arrival, this time from Amazon. I had a bit of birthday money burning a hole in my already holey pockets. When pockets as holey as these start blazing its best to spend your dosh while it still lasts and before the bills arrive so spend I did! I bought 3 books, 1 of which isn’t in stock apparently and I have to wait. Guess which book it was Hannah… ;). One of them I have been waiting for most excitedly and with my latest round of fermentation it will fit in wonderfully. I can’t wait for Miyoko Schinner’s book “Artisan Vegan Cheeses” to get here. I have been using the bread prover over Brunhilda to give my ferments a chance to bask in her radiant love, much like Bezial lies lovingly at her feet with his big black head up against the warming oven. They have been rewarding me with exponential growth and after giving away 3 of the 8 sourdough starters that Steve and I have been cultivating (to share the love) there are still 5 of them bubbling away ready to move to new homes when the desire arises. Up until lunch time today they were sharing the proving rack with a glass jug of wine yeast doing its thang that is now swimming free and winning the Serendipity Farm equivalent of the Olympic 100 metres breast-stroke in 17 litres of “Skeeter Pee”. Skeeter Pee is apparently potent quaffable lemon wine best drunk chilled in the summer after working hard in the garden. At 14% alcohol you wouldn’t want to drink too many of them in between shifts! We are enjoying seeking out alternatives to paying the middle man our hard studied dosh for something that we can make ourselves out of seasonal produce and by harnessing natural bacteria and fungus to work for us.
I was chatting to the owner of Inspirations Nursery in Exeter the other day when we were picking up some mushroom compost. I love mushroom compost and its propensity to give. Why spend $25 on a mushroom kit when a few bags of mushroom compost will give you pretty similar yields and a whole lot of usable compost to hurl into your garden for quarter the price. We have 7 bags and are just about to lug it into the hidey hole under the house. I have some interesting ideas about what we can do with this wasted space directly beneath the house and growing mushrooms might be a good way to utilise it. After we picked up the mushroom compost we headed inside the nursery to have a little look at the range of seeds that were developed along with Steve Solomon and that are now propagated by a school as a partnership project. I found out that one of the local Resource Management groups is also partnering with the school so the children grow native plants for revegetation. It’s a win-win situation all round and a great way to show children that trees aren’t just for cutting down (it IS Tasmania after all 😉 ). While Steve was roaming about the outside looking at plants in pots I had a look at this amazing seed range and was struck by the wonderful rare old bean selection that was being offered. Apparently the owner has also partnered with another man who is passionate about cold climate beans. This struck a chord with me because one of the points that came out when one of the speakers was talking about food security was that Tasmania doesn’t grow its own grains or legumes. The selection of wonderful looking beans got me very excited. Most of them are grown to dry out and store for use as pulses and ground for high protein flours. Once the owner realised that I was very interested in his selection of beans he opened up and told me about some of the history of the beans. One long black bean was an American Indian variety called “Field of Tears” and was their staple bean crop named after their displacement from their homeland. There were beans of all shapes and colours and one particular kind of bean got me very excited. Getting excited about beans is lame, by the way, and only a fellow vegan could understand how excited I got with this one ;). It’s called a Tepary bean and is a Northern American bean that is just starting to discover a new audience thanks to its incredible drought tolerance and good texture and flavour and keeping qualities. The beans were grown in the desert and living on one of the driest countries on the planet anything edible that promises to perform well in drought conditions is my kind of food! Inspirations Nursery sells 2 kinds of Tepary bean, one nondescript light brown squarish bean and its gaudy white with blue spots cousin, also drought hardy and very nutritious. Here’s a good website with some quality information about Tepary beans if you are interested…
One of the speakers at the Sustainable Food day talked about spreading various hardy edible plants around your garden and allowing them to go to seed and take up residence all over your property. I dare say this man’s garden isn’t ever going to feature in “Home and Garden” magazine but the idea struck a chord with me. He suggested broadcasting silverbeet, parsley, coriander, rocket, bok choy, chicory and another lady chimed up with celery, carrots, fennel and parsnips as also being easy to let run free on your property. The same man turned what is an incredibly invasive pest plant, Allium triquetrum (Three cornered Garlic) from something that was almost impossible to remove without herbicide to a positive asset by showing that it was indeed a culinary herb, edible and delicious! I love finding ways to turn a negative into a positive and the ultimate revenge is to eat your pest! Making weed tea or piling weeds up and covering them with black plastic for a few years is also a wonderful way to expunge your pent up frustration at a garden full of nitrogen scoffing weeds. Make them work FOR you. Everything has at least one positive (and usually several negative) points and if you can exploit that positive, you are ahead as far as I am concerned. I have a small patch of nettles in the veggie garden area that Steve has been itching to whipper snip since it grew. I am saving my nettles. Not only are they a good vegetable source of iron, make excellent soup and wine BUT they encourage beneficials, they are an indicator that the soil is very fertile (especially in phosphorus) and that the soil has been disturbed. They can be used as a compost activator and can be used to make weed tea that is low in phosphate but has good amounts of magnesium, sulphur (which is low in Tasmanian soils) and iron and coincidentally, they are one of the few plants that can tolerate and flourish in soil rich in poultry droppings ;). For every action (negative) there is an equal and opposite reaction (positive). Cheers Nick! Permaculture teaches us that everything has a use. We were just about to burn some piles of debris and wood and I mentioned this to my new Permaculture guru Frances and she said “DON’T”! She and I had talked about how water runs down our property and how we can’t dig swales to slow the descent and keep the water in our own soil thanks to the rocks. She pointed out that forming the vegetation into rows will act as a swale along with rocks heaped over them. I have SO much to learn but I am going to enjoy every single minute of it :o).
Another couple of thousand words just flew out of my fingertips. Get in line Merlin I have the magic touch! I might just spend the rest of this evening formulating my next post because I am just getting started and it’s time to finish. Steve is making me vegan pea and “ham” soup by substituting smoked paprika for the ham and green split peas for the regular yellow ones so tonight I will be dining on experimental food. I think that spring is full of experimentation. All sorts of new chances to mess about in the garden, to spend time working on projects outside, to give new life to our poor long suffering potted plants that are envious beyond belief at their already planted brethren. So much to do before the heat sets in and robs us of our energy and will to head out into the garden as surely as the winter rain does the very same thing. Serendipity Farm is awakening to all of the possibilities of spring and it would seem that so am I :o). See you all on Saturday and here’s hoping that all of you in the Southern Hemisphere are enjoying the heralds of spring. Sorry you lot in the North, you HAD your turn! 😉