Thursday, May 31, 2012

Swale and 2nd Food Forest

Now that things are in swing in Zones 0-2, it's time to start taking steps in Zone 3. The plan - to have a self-sustaining food forest which doesn't rely on watering - so hardy species down here as opposed to the higher maintennance ones near the house.

The bottom paddock, as we've always called it, has sat barren for the last 15 years. We've let our neighbours sheep through it once or twice to get the vegetation down so the paddock can act as a firebreak, and we've ploughed it once to turn over the weeds but other than that it's just been a plain old paddock.

On May 25th our neighbour came over to rip some tree roots out with his backhoe. While he was here I snaffled him down to the paddock and ..voila! 5 minutes later a swale was brought into existence. It was so quick and easy with the machinery. It would have taken me weeks to dig it by hand. The swale isn't very long - about 8m. It should affect 1/3 of the paddock - which is intentional. Small nucleus to start, work outwards from there in years to come.

So, following the suggestions in Geoff Lawtons's '7 Food forests in 7 minutes' clip, I planted 3 pecans below the swale. Wide enough that their canopies should just touch when full grown. Next I sowed a winter cover crop, 1 metre up from the swale, along the mound and for about 5 metres below the swale. this should stop erosion from the mound and start providing some good ground cover. I also planted a few sweet potato cuttings.

Last night, 31st May, we had a lovely storm come over and I was dying to go down and see the swale in action, but there was so much lightning it wasn't a good time. This is the swale at 7am this morning however....

 The sand  in the bottom left hand corner is the run off from the new path the water created to to swale. Now that there is a ridge, there shouldn't be this much erosion in future rains.
 The swale is a little lower at one side - which I need to remedy however, this photo shows how deep the water seems to have been at one point (40cm). The black is silty mud which would have settled at it drained.
And here are the grains from the winter cover crop, swelling nicely in this moisture. The grains are a mix of vetch, lupins and a few others I'm not sure of.

And now we wait, for some growth, and if we're lucky, some more rain!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Feels different

Feels different this 'garden for a living' thing. If we're going to give this a decent go we need to get growing. So I'm treating this as a job and got up early, did my usual chores before school, dropped kids off, did the reading circle thing then came home!

Have improved beds, dug trenches, planted broad beans, tatsoi, pioneer red dwarf beans, spring onions, daikon radish, beetroot and perpetual spinach. If nothing else we'll be eating well ourselves this year!

It feels really different, but I like it. Working from home is great - I'm disciplined enought to do it, and the travel time saved gives me time to fit the chores in. I hope this does take off, and when I can't manage it in 3 days anymore, then H can take it over fulltime and I'll take up more days at 'other work'. Which, incidentally is proving to be a market for our produce too!
A colleague noticed me borrow some gardening books yesterday and said she pays a fortune for organic food (because she refuses to buy conventional) but it's often old or comes from interstate. She said if we were growing she'd happily buy off us, and she feels many other staff would too.

Opportunities abound!

My back hurts, but I'm happy! :)

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Glimpse of a dream

For a while now we've been talking about making our patch work for us, and toyed with the idea of greenhouses and H one day quitting his job to work from home. Today I spoke to someone and took us one very teeny, tiny step in that direction. If all goes well, we'll be selling some bits of our produce to an ethical and community driven buyer who wants to see a return to the land for people like us on small-holdings. I'm so excited about where this might lead us.


Sunday, May 6, 2012

Bio-Char Experiment

I've been reading a lot about Terra Pretta and I have to say it's fascinating. I remember as a kid 'playing' at gardens and 'fertilising' our little crops with ash because that's what we had. I remember the peas doing pretty well.
In any case, I'm giving this a go again. Spent the morning collecting the bounties left from our Spring Equinox bonfire - plenty of ash, bits of clay, and lots of charcoal. Have mushed it up and mixed it with Green Life Soil company's veggie mix (manure, compost, minerals etc), then dug it in with a trowel in pockets through the beds. If it's all it's cracked up to be, the fertility of our soil should show marked improvement over the next few years. Which would be nice, as despite the amendments we made last season, a hot, dry season has seen it all disappear. Looking forward to seeing this through. :)