19 December 2013

Seasons Greetings

Well that's me done for 2013 I think. We're packing up the car, sailing dinghy and bikes and are off tomorrow on an adventure for a few weeks.

It's been a big year, some major challenges and trauma, but also some really fantastic highlights, starting with January exploring New Zealand, and finishing a couple of weeks ago with my graduation in Permaculture.  

My blogging could best be described as sporadic this year and  I look forward next year to reconnecting with it, and perhaps refocussing a bit, but we will see what comes.  Even though I haven't posted so much this year, I have still been checking in regularly with my favourite blogs, and enjoyed very much following the adventures of others in farming, sustainability and simple living.  So many people out there are doing astounding things, and I am so full of admiration for those people who are making big commitments to living in a meaningful way.

Thank you to everyone who has followed along with the City Garden and the Country Garden this year.  My best wishes to all for a wonderful festive season and a bountiful harvest to all!

T x

08 December 2013

03 December 2013

"Haven't we been past that tree/ shed/ road already today...?!"

Putting aside the fact that I spent eight hours on a bus to travel no further than 130km from the centre of Melbourne to essentially spend 15 minutes walking around a cow paddock and then have a lovely lunch in a far-flung cafe, in what was one of the worst organised events I've encountered, I actually had a fascinating day yesterday!

02 December 2013

PDC Success!

I'm very excited that yesterday in my final Permaculture Design Certificate class, my group presented our final design project and officially graduated from the course.  I'm now officially a Permaculture Designer!  What an amazing experience it's been, so much learning and discussion and contemplation.  

This is one of several site analysis slides from our design presentation, for a suburban house block:

30 November 2013

Slow Living Month - October and November 2013

Oh poor, sad, neglected blog!  So much going on, but none of it managing to get to written status! So to recap on the last couple of months, here's my combined October/ November Slow Living Diary, joining up again with Christine at Slow Living Essentials and the gang.

20 October 2013

A Year in the Vineyard


11 October 2013

Slow Living Month - September 2013

Back to my bad habits of handing in my homework late :)  September already seems a long time ago, but here are some on the highlights as part of my regular catch-up with Christine and co at Slow Living Essentials.

29 September 2013

Reducing Energy Usage

I think this post is going to be one of those where you share embarrassing information in an attempt to force yourself to make improvements!   

In my August Slow Living Journal I talked about my realisation that we need to reduce our electricity usage in the City Garden house.  When I think about it now just one month later, it seems crazy for me to say that I have only just realised this, but there have been so many reports in the media over the last couple of years about the increasing cost of electricity in Australia, and our electricity bills have been expensive, and rising even further, so I just assumed that we were pretty average and everyone has had the sort of bills and energy usage that we have.  But no, actually, it turns out that lots of people don't!

25 September 2013

A Momentary Diversion

Please excuse this momentary diversion.  This post has nothing to do with gardening but possibly quite a lot to do with permaculture...

Last Friday night I went to see the fabulously talented Amanda Palmer at a gig.  She was famously in the Dresden Dolls, a cabaret punk band, who played at MONAFOMA last year, and is now doing her thing solo.  Amanda is a gutsy, artistic, creative powerhouse of a performer, who isn't averse to courting a bit of controversy in support of her art or causes she believes in strongly.  A big advocate of social media, she has well and truly embraced blogging and twitter (918,000 followers!) and last year funded her most recent album on kickstarter, raising $1.2Million in the process!

The permaculture connection?  Amanda Palmer has managed to create a closed-system by connecting with her fans via social media and challenging ideas about "celebrity" disconnection and the way that music is sold/controlled.  This has enabled her to procure things that she needs to produce her work in exchange for her art, and in the process changing the nature of the relationship between artist and fan.  Some examples include sourcing obscure instruments for one-off performances, to finding a bed or dinner with strangers while on tour.  She recently did a TED talk called the Art of Asking, which is a fascinating insight into her motivations and justifications.  You can watch it here.

And here's a photo from the gig, quite blurry but clearly a very perceptive woman!

21 September 2013

This Week in the City Garden

I've been transfixed by the local White Plumed honeyeaters who have been enjoying the Echiums as they come into flower.  My bird book describes them as "aggressive in urban gardens" but I like to think of them as feisty and acrobatic!

There's been an egg bonanza this week.  But I'm suspicious - I think one of the chickens (probably Blacky) is about to go broody and is trying to gather a clutch of eggs.  If/when she does go broody again we might try to find some fertilised eggs to add a couple of chickens to the flock however we would look to getting a breed that are less inclined to broodiness and more inclined to laying regularly, which are the downsides of the Pekin Bantams.  Bantam Australorps sound interesting.  Does anyone have any experience with them, or know where I could get some fertilised eggs?

In the vegetable and herb gardens:
  • Trays of seeds have been planted for the Country Garden
  • The last of the  City Garden broccoli was harvested and the bed replanted with two tomatoes (Tigerella and Yellow Cherry), basil and alyssum, which I learnt this week is great for attracting beneficial predator insects due to the shape of its little individual flowers
  • The broad beans are continuing to flower and have started to produce tiny pods, but they probably don't have quite enough sun and have been battered by some strong winds
  • The herbs from the street garden were repotted in preparation for Spring growth.  There have been a couple of strawberries (which disappeared as soon as they were ripe!) and there are lots of bright red nasturtiums and blue violets to brighten up the street.
The back garden has its share of bright splashes of colour too!

20 September 2013

September in the Vineyard

I've been carefully watching the pinot noir vines closest to the Country Garden to try to capture the moment of budburst, but I was away for one week and arrived back to the sight of new green sprouts everywhere, so didn't quite manage to capture it.  

Each year the order of progress in the vineyard is the same: Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, followed by Semillon, then Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz, so if I'd walked over to the Cabernet vines on the far hill I may have still be able to observe it.  

With the weather warming up the vineyard will quickly become a sea of green, with tasks such as de-budding (of the growth on the vine stems), pruning and grass slashing not far away.

06 September 2013

Slow Living Month - August 2013

It's time once again to check in with Christine and the gang who gather each month at Slow Living Essentials to reflect on what has been achieved in the past month.

I've hardly managed to post anything on the blog this past month, which has nothing to do with not having anything happening, in fact it's actually the opposite.  I've had so much new and exciting stuff going into my head that when I've tried to write it down it all tries to tumble out at once and gets stuck!

Apart from starting a new work project, which is taking its own little corner of my brain (of course I pretend at work that it's more than just a corner!) and doing some exciting things around Fair Food, the main thing for me this month has been starting the Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC) course.  I was really looking forward to getting into the course, but it has completely exceeded my expectations.  Each week has filled my head with new learnings, or pushed things I already knew much further and linked bits together in new ways.  Wow!

So here is my August Slow Living Journal:

25 August 2013

This week in the Country Garden

Rugged up against the grey drizzle this week it was lovely to be out in the Country Garden, although my activities were limited to harvesting.  As much broccoli as I could cook, silverbeet, turnips, celery, a couple of carrots (I'm trying to ration them!) and leek were the mainstay this week.  (My broccoli crop in the City Garden is also doing well - apart from the plants that were completely pruned by possums last night - so there is masses of it, which makes me very happy.)

Here are some of the beds in the Country Garden:

In the Vineyard - August 2013

From a distance it looks like nothing is happening in the vineyard at the moment, particularly in such cold wet weather as it's been lately.  

But looking closely there's some definite activity starting on the vines.  This is a pinot noir vine, and you can see the pre-buds starting to emerge.  Budburst (the point when the leaves become visible) can't be too far away.

07 August 2013

This Week in the Country Garden

Finally!  After reading about everyone else in Victoria harvesting their brassicas for weeks if not months, yesterday my Purple Sprouting Broccoli was ready to start picking.  Also a first for quite some time were carrots, baby beetroot (too small to pick really, but I couldn't wait!) and fennel.  These exciting new additions to our recent diet of turnips, silverbeet, leek, parsley and celery made me very happy indeed.

One strange thing I've noticed in the garden however, is that several plants are growing outwards not upwards, lying flat in the beds.  They include some of the fennel, the most recent planting of silverbeet and kale and some celery.  In some cases they are in the same bed as earlier plantings of the same variety, so I assume it's not the soil.  I'm wondering if they were affected by frost?  Any thoughts?

05 August 2013

Slow Living Month - July 2013

It's the end of July so time to reflect back on some of the slow living achievements of the month, and perhaps a few from June, as I somehow missed that post.  Thanks once again to Christine at Slow Living Essentials for continuing to host this lovely monthly review.  Pop over to Christine's blog to see what she and the rest of the gang have been up to in July.

In the Vineyard - July 2013

Back in March I wrote about the trial to build a worm farm by composting the must from the harvest under black plastic for a couple of months.  It's now been sitting quietly in a corner of the vineyard for the last four months, which was actually a mistake as it was tucked so far out of the way that I never go near it, and so haven't checked on it since it was put there.  But this week I finally remembered to go and see what it's doing.

24 July 2013

An Ethical and Sustainable Approach to Food Production

*This post may not appeal to people who have made a decision in their lives not to eat meat

Last weekend at our local farmers market, I was proudly shown the head and carcass of a magnificent pig called Betty, which was sitting in Bundarra Berkshires' mobile fridge.  The meat was destined for delivery to someone who was planning one of those traditional family salami-making weekends.

I knew that taking Betty to slaughter earlier that week had been really tough for the farmer, Lauren of Bundarra, as Betty had been their first sow and mother to many litters of piglets.  But such decisions are part of running a rare-breed free range pig farm as a business.  

I've talked about Lauren before.  She and her husband Lachy are dedicated to producing amazing quality, sustainably farmed pork, where at every step of the way the pigs are treated with respect and fed only natural foods, on a property where farming techniques are considered in order to naturally improve the land.  Lauren is also a driving force behind sustainable food initiatives in her local community, and working hard to find ways to "close the system" to ensure quality and viability of local produce.  One key issue she is currently grappling with is the ongoing abysmal state of many abattoirs, an essential link in the chain that is rusty at best, broken in many cases.  Options for on-farm or mobile abattoirs could potentially really improve the lifecycle process of many small producers if readily available. 

Discussing some of these issues with Lauren has added to my thinking about city/country connections and about ways that non-farmers can play a useful role in the ongoing viability of sustainable farming practices.  On the one hand, you could say that I'm just a consumer and buying the meat is my only obligation. Alternatively, my view is that I'm part of the chain and if I want to be able to eat high quality, ethically grown meat then I have a responsibility to do what I can to make the chain as strong as possible.  So we have been talking about ways that some of my professional skills could assist with some of Lauren's objectives.   I'm sure there are many opportunities for interested people to get involved with farmers and regional food groups.  It's really all about starting the conversations and aligning skills.

Lauren has just written a moving post about Betty, and about some of the issues and challenges and opportunities for ethical and sustainably produced food.  It's a great read, that may require tissues.  

19 July 2013

Knitting Socks

I mentioned a while ago that I'd started knitting a pair of socks after being sent a lovely parcel of patterns and DVD instructions from my friend K. Surprisingly (or perhaps not, given how great the patterns that K sent me were) I managed to finish a first pair successfully, and in time for my Mum's birthday.  So now that they are warming her feet in the chilly Tasmanian climes, I can reveal them... 
ta da!
I got all excited and decided I needed a pair for myself next, and found a ball of wool with a fabulous range of colours in it that looked like it would knit up in a similar random way to the first pair, so off I set.  Wrong.  The trick for new players that I didn't realise before I bought it is that somewhere on the label in very tiny writing it said "irregular stripes".  And this is how it turned out.  What a mess, and the yellow bits through it look terrible when they are in a block of colour, so I ended up cutting the rest of the yellow out of the ball after the heel section.
So now my question is, should I knit up the other one so that I can at least say I've finished a pair for myself, or give up on it and start a new pair with this gorgeous hand-dyed magenta wool that I found?