29 January 2011

Optimistic.

I've been thinking lately that the dictionary definition for the word optimistic should include the word farmer and more specifically a farmer planting a crop.

When a farmer plants a crop she/he hopes for the perfect weather conditions to enable that crop to germinate, to grow and to thrive. It cannot be too hot, too wet, too cold or too humid. The farmer hopes that the irrigation pipes don't block or burst, that pests leave the crop alone, that there are no diseases, not too many weeds and enough water to irrigate it. He/she hopes that there is no flood or fire or wind storm. The farmer hopes that Mother Nature is kind and enables a delicious crop to be picked at the end of the growing season.

After a month of 'will we or wont we's', the last few days at Daylesford Organics were spent ploughing, laying irrigation lines and planting out a couple of gardens of carrots and beetroots.

Where other years we plant many, many different varieties of vegetables and lots of successions of each, this year we are most grateful to get anything in at all.

We are optimistic.

25 January 2011

Fish?

We're still in clean up mode after the flood. We're chainsawing and pulling down and mulching and mowing. We're exploring and hunting for parts of our property that have washed away.

Yesterday Farmer Bren was walking around and found a fish. Just lying there in what used to be the market garden.

Maybe all those jokes about certified organic trout weren't so silly after all.

Have a great day.

23 January 2011

Water.

At this time of the year my blog should be bursting at the seams with photos of gorgeous rainbows of fruit and vegetables. Hundreds of varieties in all different shapes and colours. This week last year I was blogging about beetroots and peas and rocket and radishes. This year you get the puppies.

This ain't no ordinary season. This certainly ain't no ordinary January.

Actually, the truth is so far in our ten years of organic farming we have learnt that there is no such thing as an ordinary year. Some years there's too much wind, some are too hot, some bring fires and other other crazy weather patterns. As farmers we have learnt to listen and watch and to adapt.

But until this year the one constant has been the respect and love we have to have for water. Water is good.

When we moved here we became self sufficient in our water supply for the first time. We have had to be mindful in washing and drinking and laundering and bathing even in the middle of winter, to ensure we have enough for the coming summer. Our house water comes from the rain that lands on our roof and is precious.

Farm water has always been a constant topic for discussion too. We have bores that fill dams, we have dams that fill irrigation systems and we have irrigation systems that are always being planned and fixed and tested and diagrammed and updated.

On a farm water is life giving, water is precious, water is the topic of so many discussions.

Most years the running joke around here is that Bren has another girlfriend called Tap who he is always rushing off to meet and spend time with.

But then this year something happened to turn our whole theory of water on its head.

We learnt that water can also be destructive. Water can ruin your plans, stop you from planting a crop, turn your crop to seed or to mush, it can take years of carefully maintained top soil and send it off down the creek. Water can be scary. Water is a contradiction.

And everywhere we go there are more crazy water stories. The lettuce grower who had to plow in ten acres of flooded lettuces, our neighbours at yesterday's farmers' market who had to sell so much of their strawberry crop as seconds, our friends Andrew and Jill who lost their entire crop and left a gap where their stall usually stands opposite us...I could go on and on, I'm sure you could too.

So now we are living through the rest of this crazy season. We are grateful for our chookens who continue to lay, that we don't have enormous machinery and input costs and that we never put a crop in so we didn't lose one. Our hearts go out to those less fortunate.

Please buy local where you can, buy direct from the farmer where possible and look out for those that are producing the food that you eat.

14 January 2011

After the rains.

After more than 200mm of rain and crazy winds, we left the safety of our home on the hill this morning to survey the scene.

The girls were just happy to be outside after days and days inside the house.

We found a smashed up poly tunnel,

an underwater car park,

lakes and more lakes where once were paddocks ready for the full moon planting out.

Artichokes ready to be picked but impossible to get to.

Rows of ripe berries and currants again impossible to get to to pick.

Wet.

Another reason why we wont be opening our farm gate stall this year.


Farmer Bren in his fancy pants.

That corner is the furthermost corner of the market garden. Gone. Washed down the creek. All that precious top soil, gone.

Seems ridiculous to find a sprinkler in the midst of it all.

And bush land that had a bush fire rip through it two years ago, now is full of heavy, wet, soggy and fallen trees. This is the part that really terrifies me living in the middle of the bush.

Despite the loss of income, the loss of years worth of carefully maintained top soil, the loss of the chance to express our true passion and plant an heirloom vegie crop and so much devastation, the truth is we know we are the lucky ones. In a few days the waters will subside and we will clean up and move on. We have a dry house to return to and chooks that were moved to higher country and still seem happy enough to lay eggs despite the wet.

Our thoughts go out to all those less fortunate.

Stay safe.

12 January 2011

Floods & dogs.

Our farm gate stall will not open this season.

The market garden is under water for the third time since September. When and if the ground dries out enough to plant a crop, there will not be a long enough growing season to ripen it.

You can still buy our certified organic, free range eggs and garlic from Tonnas and Harvest in Daylesford, from The Slow Food Farmers' market and The Collingwood Children's Farm Farmers' market in Melbourne, from The Ceres shop and from Organic Wholefoods.

Farmer Bren just emailed me this photo from his phone and as I type this the rain is crashing down.

This week's The Weekly Times's letters section has one that reads:

Man and his dog just clicked
I would like to compliment the photographer of the brilliant picture for October in The Weekly Times' 2011 calendar.
It is without doubt one of the best pictures seen anywhere in a long time.
I also compliment the gentleman in the picture for his compassion and appreciation, clearly expressed in the picture.
He has obviously spent considerable time and effort training this loyal dog-just look at the connection between the two.
The trust and appreciation they show for each other is very touching.
The composition is sensational-the brilliant colours and the way it captures the emotional interaction between man and his faithful dog.
Knowing the wonderful loyalty of Maremma guardian dogs, I appreciate the connection between this dog and master.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. It is impossible to put a figure on the number of words condensed in this picture.'

Gavin Wall
Mt Evelyn.

Thanks Gavin, you've made our day.
Thanks also Jane for letting us know.

And while we are on the subject of Maremmas, look who opened their eyes two days ago. Willow's six puppies are super cute little fat fluff balls. Their fur is white and thick and the pads on their feet and their noses have turned from pink to black. Their legs are still not strong enough to carry them, but they can certainly move around to get to their Mama. Willow is still being patient and kind with them although she is taking a break occasionally to lie under the house. She seems much happier for us to have a cuddle these days too.

And finally, our thoughts go out to all those affected by the devastating floods in the North of our country. Wishing you and your families safety, dryness and relief from it all.