Steve Solomon, seeds and Serendipity Farm

Hi All

Today is going to be a little bit different to most of my posts. I headed off for a visit to Steve Solomon’s garden yesterday and this post is going to be all about my visit. Steve Solomon is an ex-pat American man that moved to Tasmania many years ago and calls my local area home. He developed a seed company in the U.S.A. that my good blog mate Christi who is a prolific author and gives us all her wonderful take on life in Western Washington at http://farmlet.wordpress.com/ regularly purchases her veggie seeds from. He has produced a range of seeds and fertilisers specifically for our local area with mindfulness of how depleted and ancient our soil is in Australia. The man certainly knows his stuff as this interesting article posted on Mother Earth website will show you (along with a free recipe for his great natural homemade fertiliser)

http://www.motherearthnews.com/Organic-Gardening/2006-06-01/A-Better-Way-to-Fertilize-Your-Garden.aspx

http://www.bookdepository.co.uk/search?searchTerm=Steve+Solomon

This shows the proximity to the street from Steve’s vegetable garden. Note the espaliered trees along the front of the fenceline and the trellised kiwifruit. To the left you can see the feathery remains of a happy asparagus crop that he dug up to sell the crowns at $1.25 each crown and he got 900 crowns from this 10m bed. You can also see the brassica’s doing their level best to repopulate the earth

People wandering around the well ordered winter veggie beds. You can see the colour and structure of Steve’s soil in this photo. He credits his low water requirements to the composition of this soil and he also told us that he doesn’t mulch because he believes that mulch carries and shields too many pest species from view and harbours fungal pests so his plants are more widely spaced to minimise water stress and the soil is exposed but not compacted

Some of the people that came to hear Steve talk about his garden listening most intently to what he has to say. Steve is the grey haired gentleman in the blue jeans standing in the middle of the group. The man in the white pants is one of the Tamar NRM representitives present on the day. You can see how close Steve’s suburban block is to his neighbours

Everyone is sampling Steve’s delicious veggies in this photo. The poor girl on the left hand side with the purple fuzzy hat kept getting passed the plate. She must have thought that she looked hungry. The lady wearing the blue jeans with my backpack over her shoulder and the long dark hair is my friend in the witness protection and I was wandering about taking photos to share with you

As you can see there were quite a few people that turned up to this event. Most of them were interested in organic vegetable growing and some of them just wanted to get more out of their soil and grow better veggies. Steve gave his undivided attention to everyone but there was one younger man who just earned himself a felt hatters moniker. In the photo above he is the young sunglass wearing (on an overcast rainy day mind you…) man in the navy blue jumper and blue jeans standing just to the right of the elderly white hatted man. This guy just couldn’t shut up! I thought that I had a problem with being a bit of a know-it-all but this kid made me look like a mute! He had verbal diarrhea littered with as much scientific jargon as he could muster from his overcharged brain. Steve is a bit of an old hippy and admitted that “I just want everyone to be healthy” to which our sunglass wearing young entrepreneur asked “what is your marketing stragegy?”I rest my case! I could have forgiven him his verbosity if I hadn’t found out that he had booked a spot to gush on we less intelligent mortals at the upcoming Food Sustainability Day that I will be attending. At least I have forwarning and can take some ear plugs should the need arise to give my poor ears a rest!

This shot was taken looking back towards Steve’s lovely home to show you the other view of the garden

More of the garden looking back towards Steve’s house and you can see the green crops (lupins) that he is using to overwinter these garden beds and give them a nitrogenous boost with. As you can see, his garden is a decent size and produces enough to feed his family and to fill 7 CSA boxes a week for locals who love his fresh and delicious organic vegetables yielding him an additional $560 a month in income with very little extra work

The sun came out for 5 seconds and you can get a really good idea of how rich and red this lovely friable soil is. As you can see (when I can be bothered to stop taking arty shots and attempt to focus on a single garden bed for a change) this garden is set out in a very organised, logical way and when we asked Steve why he chose 10m x 2m garden beds he said “to make it easier to work out how much of my fertiliser to apply to them”. Good answer sir! 🙂

Some of the handouts and one of the free pens (in her left hand) being held by my friend in the witness protection. That lovely purple jacket that she is wearing contains goose down and by the end of the 2 hours spent sitting in a cosy warm room she was wishing that she hadn’t worn it! We all expected to be standing around outside in Steve’s garden for most of the talk but he was incredibly considerate of us all and brought us into his lovely home for most of the lecture.

Sorry it’s a bit dark but this is Steve sharing his passion for growing vegetables that are able to take up minerals from the soil. Our health shouldn’t be in the hands of supermarkets and “others”. We owe it to ourselves to eat the best and most nutritious food that we can. Steve is trying to make sure that we all do 🙂

I left Steve Solomon’s garden with a new passion for growing vegetables and with newfound hope that our soil may not be quite as bad as I thought that it was. It obviously isn’t as glorious as the red Ferrosol soil that Steve bought his property because of, but our silty topsoil covering a subsoil of clay and rocks will give us really good soil moisture retention. I am going to dig up as much comfrey as I can from my daughters place in town and plant it EVERYWHERE on Serendipity Farm. Comfrey is a fantastic perennial herb that has very deep penetrating roots and that should be able to deal with our soil and bring minerals and nutrients to the surface. I can then use its leaves to throw into and accelerate our compost making thus killing two birds with one plant! Yeh…I know…I mixed my metaphors…I was never one to adhere to metaphoric correctness 😉

The lovely book plate personally signed by Hannah, an amazingly talented young vegan cookbook author that is going to be affixed with pride as soon as my copy arrives from The Book Depository in the U.K. Check out her beautiful blog for all sorts of decadent, sinful but oh so healthy treats…
http://bittersweetblog.wordpress.com/

My new pumpkinescant best bud “Barbara’s” embryo’s arrived in one piece unmolested by the pumpkin police and hopefully not irradiated beyond an inch of their lives. Cheers to the effervescent and eternally opptimistic Bev from the wonderful down to earth and incredibly entertaining and education blog “Foodnstuff”. I am having a little chuckle here, as I had to head over to Foodnstuff to get the url and read the first paragraph of her new post that I am sure that she won’t mind me reproducing here…
“I know God hates me because I’m an atheist and when he sees me out in the garden, he sends it down.
He must have been otherwise occupied this morning because I actually got a lot of weeding done before he woke up that I was out there.”
Check out why I spend my mornings loitering about in the hope that Bev has posted again and I can sit there with a cuppa and a stiffled guffaw before anyone else is up here…
http://foodnstuff.wordpress.com/

Our Mise en plus all ready for starting on our 1/5th scale model…this nice neat pile is now a chaotic teetering stack bedecked with sawdust and slightly Earl nibbled timbers and discarded timber offcuts

The eggs in the carton are duck eggs and are a lovely green/blue colour. I use them in cakes but my daughters have expressed an interest in duck egg futures so I won’t feel the need to be constantly baking to keep up with their ready supply

This part of the post is pre-garden visit. Steve and I had a quick drive-by viewing and Steve’s garden is decidedly underwhelming at the moment but then again, most gardens in Tasmania’s north are the same thanks to a long, cold, hard winter. It will be very interesting to see what Steve has to say about gardening in our local conditions. It will also be very interesting to talk to him about how he developed his seed catalogue to get the best of them with our local growing conditions. According to Christi, his previous seed company, “Territorial Seed Company”, is the place to go to get seeds in her neck of the woods. I think that the word “neck of the woods” is most pertinent to Christi’s local area as I would have a cricked neck for a month from looking up at all of those amazing conifers that grow naturally where she lives.  I am particularly interested in one of his earlier books titled “Gardening when it counts: Growing food in hard times”. Steve says that he grows half of his families food requirements in his garden and it will be interesting to see just exactly what he grows to do this. All in all it will be a most interesting visit and at least Christi should be interested in this post :o).

These are the fluorescent coloured veggie burgers that Steve made for my birthday. My dear sister Pinkus said that they looked like sweets but they were deliciously savoury and full of flavour despite looking like they should taste of strawberries…

This is what the veggie burgers look like when they are cooked…a whole lot more like traditional burgers and no-one would confuse them for sugary treats any more!

A side view of a most delicious birthday tea with sourdough bread, salad AND delicious oven baked chips.

Here’s my delicious vegan wholewheat chocolate peanut butter cake with the only candle that we could find albeit somewhat bent from one of the kitchen drawers. This cake was a triumph and Steve is now my new Sous Chef 😉

We all got to sample some of the vegetables from Steve’s garden cut up raw and aside from some delicious carrot sticks and some lovely fresh cabbage there was a butter yellow coloured vegetable that was tinged with green that tasted as sweet as an apple but with a hint of brassica. We couldn’t work out what it was but assumed that it might be the “Tasmanian Butter Swede” that he had been developing for the seed market. Upon asking the man from the Tamar NRM who was busy passing platters of vegetables around we were told that it was kohlrabi! The only experience that I have had of kohlrabi have been decidedly unpleasant and I swore never to eat it again thanks to stringiness, an over pronounced cabbage flavour and a distinct bitterness from the specimen that I purchased from the supermarket. Growing your own vegetables allows you the freedom to choose what you grow as well as which varieties. You can sample your way through the vegetable catalogue and arrive at your firm favourites and then you can allow the biggest and best to go to seed and collect the seed for next year ad infinitum. Steve is very passionate about people growing their own vegetables and taking control of their own health and nutrition in the process. He is just about to start up a soil testing facility in conjunction with an American soil testing agency and as his first “clients” we were given the chance to have our soils tested, a consultation with Steve regarding our results as well as a personalised fertiliser compiled from the data assessed for $20. My friend from the witness protection and I turned to each other and both said “Bargain!” Steve took us all into his lovely home and proceeded to talk about his past life developing seeds and how he got into the nutritional profiling of the vegetables and soil that he dealt with. Steve has a new book coming out in November called “The intelligent gardener: Growing nutrient dense food” that teaches people how to analyse their own soils and how to redress the problems that present themselves in your soil profile. We now have the instructions for how the soil needed for testing needs to be collected and we will be collecting our soil samples, bagging them and taking them around to Steve’s next week to be sent off and within a month they should be back and we can begin finding natural ways to get the best out of our soil for growing nutrient dense vegetables.

A previously unused attachment for my overworked food processor that squeezes oranges which made The process of squeezing 6kg of navel oranges a WHOLE lot easier…pity there wasn’t an easy fix for the 24 oranges that I had to hand zest…

There are worse things than a sink full of oranges…say…a sink full of oranges that most of them need to be hand zested…sigh…

The reason for 6kg of juiced oranges, 24 zested oranges, 4kg of juiced lemons, the zest of 4 lemons and a coma worth of sugar is fermenting away nicely on its second day of mutual introductions…Dear constant readers meet…orange wine!

I may have lost my hot water bottle last night to a rubber perishing accident but the orange wine is nice and cosy settled down on a woolen blanket right next to Brunhilda’s gentle wafting sideways heat. I might take up residence on the other side tonight if it gets any colder!

I am racing to get this post ready to post and am going to leave it here. Again, I realise that I have barged my way into your heads with sustainability, soil profiling, horticulture and seeds and if this is so much “yawn*” for you I appologise. To the rest of you who are in similar situations and who can see just how chuffed I am with what I am learning and the potential of it all I share my excitement and my delight :o). Hopefully the rest of the week will be kind to you all and you will hit 5pm on Friday running and ready to spend your weekend productively however you see fit. Take it easy and see you on Saturday :o)