Staying Sane (kinda)

Sometimes everything just gets too bloody serious and you have to start a totally silly and ridiculous art project to stop yourself falling into the abyss. Our lovely weeding fairy Deb suggested a farm fashion project to us. A little reluctant at first, we are now fully embracing the daily practise of taking a photo in exactly the same spot, at smoko, with whoever is working with us (or happens to be unwittingly passing by at the wrong moment). Show casing the subtle (or non existent) changes in our daily farm wear, both practical and fashionable (ha ha).

We hope over the weeks and months it will show the changes in season, the changes in our daily mind frame, all the wonderfull people who help at the farm and be some kind of a diary of our days. When all these crazy times are over and we can gather in groups again, we would like to have a little exhibition in and on our packing container (featuring in the photos) to celebrate!

I (Sas) have also started a similar photographic project to help me remember to pause every morning and take a breath before the rollercoaster of the day begins. I’ve been taking a photo of Leanganook, the beautiful mountain that has our back in all this, at the same time every day. Every day, subtle and not so subtle changes that never cease to take my breath away. Moments of tranquility and reverence amidst these crazy times.

Other than our art projects, we are still finding time to farm! Yes we chronically have not enough hours in the day to get all things done that we need to in order to get our winter crops in the ground. The autumn window of opportunity is slamming shut and we are madly trying to simultaneously harvest the last of the summer crops, rip them out, prepare beds and plant them out with all the autumn goodies; broad beans, peas, brassicas, winter greens, garlic and all the other allium, allium, alliums! Back to it,

Grow well…
Sas and Mel

At This Time…

Hi! I hope this finds you well out there – this feels a weird time to be writing, I should be out picking vegetables, they’re gleaming at me from the bushes.  Beautiful eggplants, ripening globes of sweet tomatoes, crunchy cucumbers hiding under green leaves and golden, dark green and striped zuchs doing the ghosty somewhere and as always you find them too late.  But I think in this weird time it is ever important to communicate.  Sometimes I’m not great at communicating, I don’t have the right words lined up together in my brain let alone for them to come out of my mouth in an understandable format.  My hands are better at creating the shapes and emotions and ideas better than my words a lot of the time.  Poor Sas has to contend with interpreting that more than anyone and she does a good job.  If anyone else heard our conversations sometimes they would think we’re mind readers cos we’re not even using real words!  But seriously, it is a time to communicate.  In whatever way you can, so please bear with me as I scramble together some words and thoughts today.

It is a weird balance to be conscious, careful and resilient without buying into panic, anxiety and stress.  We are so aware that we can’t get sick right now.  And by sick I mean a cold, a flu, a broken toe, anything.  Sas and I feel the responsibility of feeding our community good food.  If you eat healthy food, your body is stronger, your mind is stronger.  If you feed your body with no substance and dive into panic and stress your mental health and immune systems are compromised.

For us it feels like a sharp ridge of a tightrope to walk.  We are holding space for each other.  We feel incredibly grateful that although hard work, we get to be outside, be physical and keep a bit of day to day normality.  You see, we take feeding people seriously.  We think there is a growing demand and in an unknown future that it could keep increasing.  We are planting more and digging more and seeding up more.  We have bought bulk seeds as we know there will be a shortage of summer seeds, and we are saving more and more.

AND It’s all the things we’ve been banging on about for years!  We have had a lot of thankyou’s like never before, which although overwhelming gives us energy to keep doing what we do, so thank you.  Quite often we feel like we have to fight for our right (insert tune!) to exist alongside big systems, easier systems and always have to prove our validity outside of the ‘norm’.  However now, we are weirdly officially fit into being “essential”…

We are grateful that we are in a place (because we have consciously constructed it) where we also know many of the people who we feed and the people who cook our food.  So there is a network of people (feeders) who are working together to look after themselves, their staff and the rest of the town.  It is times like these that connections and relationships speak louder than money, we’re in this together and have got each others backs – whatever that looks like!

One of the emails we received after the last farmers market (thanks Jo & Carl) made a point about how for them, they were seeing in action how we (the whole Co-op stall) were taking care of ourselves, but also of the people we were feeding.  And for me, it hit the nail on the head of how we can do this, together.  Sas and I, you and your neighbour and the person down the road.  Its not just about making sure Me, Myself and I am ok, its checking in and seeing how I can look after you and vice versa. 

We are feeling quite protective of our health right now so if you don’t see us about much its because we’re either resting or we’re farming.  It feels more important than ever to provide people with good food that is safe.  We want to be extra safe so we can keep growing it for you.  We feel we simply cannot afford to get sick, exhausted etc etc.  It is important to us that we all look after each other in this sense, keep each other healthy by being responsible.  And you know what?  If it ends up we’re all being over cautious (but not panicky), I’d almost prefer that cos then we know we can do it – and how much care are you showing someone when the way you act is a way that will keep them well.  Its respectful and beautiful; now of course, but always.

We are trying to not feel overwhelmed, but it is a weird time and we don’t know what the future will hold.  We will keep working together with our community in whatever way that looks like over the next little while to uphold our position as producers.  If you know us you know how incredibly seriously we take this role.  Always have, but now it feels the spotlight is on.

If you’re living somewhere and don’t know your neighbour, leave a note out on the front step, or fence or whatever you feel comfortable with.  Swap numbers so people aren’t fully “isolated” as that is just as dangerous as everything else that’s going on right now.  I saw a clip of a street with their tables pulled out in front of their houses so they could eat, see each other and yell conversations across the road.  I loved it and was an example of how we can be imaginative and create spaces to connect.

The main thing is that we’re looking after each other with humanity, grace and compassion.  Whatever our position, whatever our role, whatever our favourite song.  It’s together that we’ve got this.

So stay strong out there, look up at the sky and feel the solidness of the earth under your feet.  In fact, take your shoes off so you can really feel it.

Love Mel (and Sas) x

1 in 5 is a good ‘un…?~!

Good morning out there!

As I write this (645am) the magpies are singing,  the sun is rising and its pink and lavender tones set light on gum leaves in the most magical way.  In biodynamics the earths’ cool morning air and mist is a breath out.  I think it fits completely the calm still of the early morn.  Often I struggle when my alarm goes off at 430am, but by the time I’ve had a cuppa at home, dragged the dog out of bed into the car, driven to the farm, had a coffee on site and figured a plan with sas; it’ll be 6/630am and I am ready to enjoy the gift of being awake with the dawn.

It’s a late but beautiful summer season.  We’re so used to everything failing bar one thing and feeling stressed to keep things alive.  However this year due to actually getting some decent rain, it not being mid 40 degrees with whipping north westerlys for a month or more AND having done soil building on top of Dave Griffiths yeoman ploughing foundation; we are seeing the patch producing magnificently and looking healthy and lush, not just alive.  Which means we are in full production and things are starting to come on for summer.  It’s still quite cool so the tommies are ripening just not in an out of control manner, which is fine by us as there’s everything else ready to pick.

We have hired help this year because we are getting old and lazy and we actually cannot physically deal with the amount that needs picking and packing with just the two of us.  Although it feels like a big step, it also feels really great to have other people join us blurry eyed in the mornings and be a part of gung hoe goodness and they bring their own lovely energy in with them. 

Katie (property owner and ex Mt Alexander Fruit Gardens farmer) always tells us we know more than we realise and as I explain how to pick, how to pack, how to tell what’s ripe and what’s not, the standard we have in regards to what we sell and why…I’m starting to think she’s right…only 5 years down the track Katie!

Nikki helps us pick and bunch on Monday, Sas and I pick salad on Tuesdays then dosome farming work, Sas picks and Ruby helps me pack CSA boxes and some restaurant orders on Wednesday.  Then most of it goes to town for market Wednesday afternoon (3.30-630 pm in town!) CSA pickups and restaurant deliveries; Thursdays see us working with some vollies for half the day then Sas and I get admin and fingers crossed some more farming done, then I pick for a half a day on Friday…! And then we also have beauty Deb doing a few hours in the dawn most days as our human weeding machine…weeding in summer, what a treat, we’ve never had to do that before!

We released CSA boxes this week and were amazed at how quickly they sold out! We are releasing another round to join up for subscription this week – go here if you’re keen to know what they are or order one in the second round: http://gunghoegrowers.com.au/get-our-veg/

AND pending produce after the Luscious Local Bushfire Fundraiser Dinner next weekend, we may release another round.  We have lots of potatoes and pumpkins and onions and garlic stored ready for when summer starts to wane.

This week we trialled a new CSA pick up system now that we’ve got Tessa’s delicious milk – Sellar Farmhouse Creamery, Ant’s scrumptious fruit – Tellurian Fruit Gardens; and our veggie boxes all picking up at market.  A whole new stall for CSA members to grab their ready packed produce.  This meant no more crazy lines! Win win! Thank you to everyone who supports us as we evolve into systems that are better for everyone.

Sas and I are VERY aware that farming is a lot of luck (weather wise) thrown in with hard work and some tricks up your sleeve.  This week we had a lovely man Kieran who tends Annie Smithers kitchen garden in Keynton come up and individually interview us for his University Research project.  We have done numerous interviews for similar things but Kieran’s approach was definitely more personal and reflective.  Sas went first then me and Kieran remarked that we both answered very similarly for some questions.  Ha!  For me that was somewhat reassuring.  It made me realise (again) how little time I take to reflect on this journey.  I felt opened and somewhat emotional after speaking with Kieran.  One of the biggest questions that silenced me was: ‘what are you proud of?’ Apparently we both answered along the lines that “we’re still here”.  Which made me laugh, kinda sad, but also kinda proud.

People say lots of nice things to us all the time.  If you know us, you know we can find those things hard to grab so they can slide off our backs.  It can be hard when you feel like you’re failing at most of the things most of the time to take a moment to look at the journey.  Sometimes you might not want to because it might mean you have to quit.  But I’m grateful that this year we’ve got tomatoes again, we can see a measurable difference in our soil, plants are looking lush and we’re picking big bounties.  Im grateful that we’ve chosen to walk the edge which means I get to work in barefeet and be outside using my brain, my body, my skills and never for one moment feel that I’m in control of everything, ever.  (A very overwhelming state at times and at others a completely freeing one.)

So here’s to 1 in 5 years of good growing seasons and the community we feed for being there the whole time and to you and me Sas; cos I think we’ve come through a lot, and sure there’s more to come, but lets enjoy the full plate this moment, this minute.

Big love,

Mel (and Sas) your Dirty Hoes x

Luscious Local Dinner- Bushfire Relief Fundraiser

Sunset harvest dinner

The bushfires across the country have been devastating to so many people and places on so many levels. We have been wondering as farmers, what we can do to contribute in the aftermath. We don’t have large amounts of money, but we do have produce, some time and great connections within our local community, so the idea we’ve come up with is a luscious local dinner.

A wonderful team of four local chefs are donating their time and creativity to whip up a feast from the abundance of local produce and prodcuts that have been donated by many generous local businesses. There will be a bar of local wines and beers on the night too.

100% of funds raised are going to bushfire recovery. Some of the more well known bushfire organisations and appeals have been receiving massive donations which we think is fantastic! We thought rather than contribute to those organisations we would choose ones that are perhaps a little less well known, but equally deserving. We want the funds raised to go towards, not just the immediate response of rebuilding what has been lost and protecting against future fires, but also towards the broader and long term vision.

Rather than choose one Bushfire Appeal to donate to we’ve decided on three.  As farmers we can understand the full devastation of losing your feed, your soil, stock, crops, infrastructure, wind breaks, the work it takes decades to achieve; your livelihood. So, half of total dollars raised will go to ORICoop.  The Organic Farmers Bushfire Appeal is coordinated by ORICoop (Organic & Regenerative Investment Co-operative) bringing together farmers, consumers, businesses and partners to support bushfire affected farmers in this time of need….focussed on increasing the amount, diversity and productivity of organically & regeneratively managed farmland around Australia, while building a resilient Australian food and farming system.

Cattle in the smoke

100% of Appeal funds will directly assist farmers to Restore, Rejuvenate and
Regenerate themselves and their farmland, and will help to:-
● replace essential farming equipment
● buy certified organic fodder & grain
● provide livestock transport to alternative organic farmland
● fund new seasons plantings
● replace burnt fruit & nut trees
● restore vegetation
● coordinate teams of volunteers to restore farms

and are currently working with farmers in these regions:-

  • -East Gippsland – Bairnsdale and surrounding areas
  • -Kangaroo Island
  • -Lobethal (Adelaide)
  • -North East VIC – Corryong and surrounding areas
  • -NSW South Coast – Batemans Bay/Moruya
  • -NSW Mid Coast/Coffs Harbour/Wauchope
  • -NSW South Coast – Cobargo/Bermagui/Brogo/Bega

– read more here:  http://organicinvestmentcooperative.com.au/opportunities/organic-farmers-bushfire-appeal/

The remaining half of funds raised will go to Wildlife Victoria and the local CFA branch.

As we see it, growing and sharing good food at a local level is a crucial element of how we both mitigate and develop resilience in the face of climate change. Growing strong connections within the community is another major part of this. This is why we grow food and this is why we are choosing to bring people together to share a meal, grown here on this land, in solidarity with all the people, animals and land that have been effected by the fires. This time, we were lucky. Next time, it might be us.

Tickets are selling fast, but if you would like to come to the dinner you can buy a ticket (or make a donations, or both) HERE

Photo Credit: Felix Wilson

It’s smoky out there

I think I’ve been putting off writing this week’s blog because there’s so many different things going around in my head/heart/world this last month.  Usually its me on high alert for bush fires and I am regularly leaving my home during summer when the weather / wind is too sketchy. I live alone in the bush and it’s not worth me trying to stay and defend, so I leave.  We have a farm plan for fire and just regular protocol for living where I do and commuting to the farm means I carry water, woollen blankets, long pants, a woollen shirt and dog food permanently in the back of the car. Due to an oddly timed burn off and an almost code red day a few days later I’ve already packed up half the house and waited to see if tings would be ok.  I’m incredibly lucky though. I’ve got neighbours down the hill who have a mine shaft kitted out with water dog food and a ladder, friends who regularly offer to house the dog and me on extreme and severe fire days and the farm, which is usually safer for me to be at than home. It also is what I signed up for living where and how I do.

It has been an incredibly odd thing checking in on friends in NSW and Vic since September and having a relatively mild time (apart from a few peaks that you come to expect) on the home /farm front.  There is a sense of unfairness and not being able to help as you watch things literally going up in smoke. There’s also the sense that this year, and its not over yet, we are just lucky. There’s nothing that would stop it happening here.

Watching my friends places and bush that I have lived in and loved be on high guard, burnt down and/or evacuated whilst I am not in danger meant for a deflated ‘silly season’.  Indeed it just felt stupid. Knowing there’s nothing I can
do from here apart from support from afar via text, mail, bank accounts and anything else a friend would need I would jump too.  Sas and I have spoken about tag teaming in the aftermath to go and help rebuild, support and assist.

Tessa (Sellar Farmhouse Creamery) who is a member of one our local CFA’s has been saying since October that the toll this will take on the fireys and communities we will be seeing for a long time – but that was in October – they’ve been burning for 4 months now…it’s a whole different level now.

Two days ago was the worst smoke day Central Vic has had yet – Stinging eyes and terrible visibility.  It was confronting to say the least. I got the image that I was breathing in the ashes of all the trees and all the poor animals who have passed.  The sun rose red more akin to a sunset. I received a message from my dad in Gippsland that there had been a mild earthquake the night before near him. 

By 430pm there were fires in Bendigo and in town at the markets in Castlemaine there was epic pour downs (17ml ish in 30 mins) lightening thunder and hail.  To have the water from the sky felt incredible and we were wishing it to travel to the places that are still burning. It was surreal – the earth is giving us a pretty clear message I reckon.

What was heart-warming about Wednesday was the amount of people who Pouring rain on marqueecame both despite and because of the extreme weather.  Also the people who brought us warm, dry towels and warm cake…how deliciously generous, thoughtful and kind. And they were being active.

I’m not quite sure how I want to fully speak about the last 4-5 months.  Im sure I’m not the only one. There have been protests around the world at Australian Embassy’s and the extinction rebellion crew have been rising up too – here’s pictures from London to Lima: https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/gallery/2020/jan/11/bushfires-crisis-world-rallies-to-demand-climate-action-as-australia-burns-in-pictures that are heartening and also bring me sadness and shame.  I stopped believing the top Government in this country were long term visioning leaders wanting to walk forward with the people many many years ago.  (There are a few on the state level who give me hope though) I don’t watch the news much and my Wrapped up in twos after the rainweekly routine of getting the weekend paper and devouring it for heartbreaking and hopeful news also stopped years ago.  Im not saying this is good – I completely believe it’s important to know what is going on in the world. Not only does it stop you becoming arrogant but it reminds you mostly of how lucky you are. But you know, I actually really struggle to read it/ watch it now.  I do feel helpless and from that hopeless. I feel like a tiny blot (which I’m ok with) that has no voice even when joined together with millions of others speaking to the supposed ‘people in charge’ (which im not ok with) who seem to act mostly from self interest and money.  Generalisation I know but im ok with that.

So I put my head down and my hands and feet in the dirt and then lift my face to the sky and silently cry that I want to do the best I can for you earth.  I don’t
want to take you for granted, I don’t want to ravage you, I want to respect and honour your complex and incredibly plentiful bounty and work with you in the best way I know how.  I want to learn how to do that better; always.

How can we be so arrogant and ignorant to ignore the place from which all life comes.

Land management is something that just continues to rise in my thoughts about how we can be active for good.  For land, water, animals, insects, people and communities. The water situation in Australia is insane – we have been in ‘drought’ for a long time in NSW.  But I wonder how much of that is human caused? They say the rivers not running is due to lack of rainfall – but we fail to see, and definitely don’t get told, about how the Murray is ‘owned’ and its water gets used for everything but environmental water which means its usual flow is disrupted which means no floods (healthy rivers are meant to flood) which means no water is seeped into the landscape and associated wetlands.  This alters local climate.  

I won’t even go into the fact of how someone can privately own a river and its water for profit.

You don’t hear much about fracking in Vic – but there’s lots that exist – in NSW, NT, WA, SA…they use an incredible amount of water for each well…do they inject chemicals into each well too?  The base flow of all rivers is groundwater…I suggest people are thinking about money and profit over long term environmental respect and consequences.

The United Nations has created a water day for 2020 and beyond; and in their fact sheet explain the global water situation: 

“Water is the essence of life. Safe drinking water and sanitation are indispensable to sustain life and health, and fundamental to the dignity of all. Yet, 884 million people do not have access to improved sources of drinking water, while 2.5 billion lack access to improved sanitation facilities.  While these numbers shed light on a worrying situation, the reality is much worse, as millions of poor people living in informal settlements are simply missing from national statistics. The roots of the current water and sanitation crisis can be traced to poverty, inequality and unequal power relationships, and it is exacerbated by social and environmental challenges: accelerating urbanization, climate change, and increasing pollution and depletion of water resources.”  Taken from https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Publications/FactSheet35en.pdf

We are lucky to have water but we are not respecting it, in my opinion.

We hear about emissions all the time and them contributing to climate change.  And its true but we need to understand more of where those emissions are coming from and how we can change our lifestyles, patterns, habit and systems to counteract it.  Here’s an interesting article – https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/apr/03/natural-world-climate-catastrophe-rewilding

It’s not just about cars and planes.  In my mind it has so much to do with land management.  The agricultural sector for example has many emissions that are not even counted in Australia’s emission count (WHY bloody not!?) and that includes the way land is farmed and from my understanding the transport of that food as well.  You can read up on it further on the page in the link below

The quote below is taken from https://www.agric.wa.gov.au/climate-change/how-australia-accounts-agricultural-greenhouse-gas-emissions

“The global warming potential of methane is 25 times that of carbon dioxide, and nitrous oxide is 298 times that of carbon dioxide. This means that 1 tonne of methane is equivalent to 25 tonnes of carbon dioxide; 1 tonne of nitrous oxide is equivalent to 298 tonnes of carbon dioxide…Livestock and the manure they create were the dominant source of methane, accounting for 52% of total national methane emissions, and agricultural soils were the dominant source of nitrous oxide, accounting for 62% of total national nitrous oxide emissions.”

The way they write these figures still emphasises the livestock, however it is the agricultural soils that are the main player.  How we eat IS A MAJOR lifestyle choice in this country. In my opinion the system is broken, its breaking the land and people.

This is a great video about holistic management of stock and the outcomes of regenerative agriculture on both the and and people…

It’s easy to point the finger and blame it on the people in charge and not do having morning tea with folliesanything ourselves.  I am lucky. I am not a refugee, I can write freely my opinions here, I have a house still standing and my livelihood has not been burnt.  I still have access to clean water from the sky which we collect and I can choose how I want to walk in this world.  

There are a bunch of us working with our immediate local community to put on a dinner sourcing and featuring local produce and chefs and other small businesses to raise funds for those affected by the fires.   More information and ticket link find here : https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/luscious-local-bushfire-fundraiser-tickets-90740622645

 

100% funds raised will be donated. As farmers we will donate 50% of the proceeds to ORIcoop who are directly helping organic and biodynamic farmers where they need it most. Here’s the link to donate directly.

25% to Wildlife Victoria

25% to our local CFA which falls under District 2.

I’m sorry this has been a bit dark – Ive been swaying from dismay, outrage to full thankfulness at working in the soil surrounded by wonderful people.  People on the same page who want to do their bit to lessen our impact and act in a way that isn’t necessarily supported or modelled by our government in the hope that it will catch on…there is a movement growing and it does have supporters, its up to us how we get involved.

All of my love and support and thanks to you out there who do what you do with consciousness, action and hope.

Mel (and Sas) x