falling off the earth

Picture 1

Well, you just might have been wondering if we had dropped off the face of the earth…it’s been more than 3 months since our last post!! It’s been so long that I had to check our blog just to see what I had written last time I posted. It’s interesting to see that I was talking a lot about the ways we were falling out of touch with the world – how this in many ways has been the whole point of our adventure. And then bang! We dropped right off the planet! Nothing like going deeply into a process! And I have to say, I can highly recommend it.

Continue reading

Advertisements

paradigmatic ponderings

A number of people have asked me if I miss my old career as a Psychologist – a career I held for exactly 20 years. The answer I give is simple ‘no’. That might make it sound as though I didn’t enjoy my work – when in fact I loved it. Working with people, sharing their stories, holding a space for them to explore and grow, being invited into the deepest thoughts and feelings of another human being – I will always consider these experiences to be remarkable and profound. I cherish the time I spent in this career and all of the people I met over those 20 years. Continue Reading

Weeks 2, 3 & 4: so much to learn, so much to eat!

Week 2

June 15: Our second farm adventure. Excited to be back. The ute ride as good as we remember it! Today we did lots of weeding. Lucky we both like it (and can’t understand why anyone would use sprays to forego the pleasure). Molly (the dog) following Michelle around all day. She seemed to take a shine to her right from the get go, and today was constantly bowling her over with kisses while Michelle was trying to weed and plant!! A sun-shower and a rainbow, in full arc, framing Wollumbin (Mt Warning). Tania wanted some photos of their produce at the market stall at the Gold Coast Organic Farmer’s Market, and Michelle volunteered to take photos – another passion of hers.

the most lovable farm dog

Lessons:

Try to avoid getting dirt in the lettuce as you weed. This spoils the heads!

Keep weeds from getting too high as this blocks sunlight to growing lettuce and impacts growth.

Keep an eye out for Molly at all times, she’s got a lot of love to give 🙂

Week 3

June 22: Today we planted kale, and did some more weeding (yay) amongst the lettuce and the spinach. In order to do the spinach, we had to learn how to remove these protective covers from metal supports that cover and protect spinach from big winds as they are very delicate and tear easily if mishandled. After this we removed radish seedlings from strawberry beds, which had snuck in through some old seed mix (cheeky radishes). There is always lots to talk about as we are farming. And always plenty of silence too!

Weather-wise it was warm and clear all day but sadly No rainbows 😦 Molly still being really affectionate with us both. Her favourite trick is to sneak up when we are crouched down and lick our faces! At lunchtime there was lots of energy for new ideas. Everyone checked out Michelle’s photos from the market stall at Miami and didn’t the produce look fantastic! Tania prepared us a bag of food to take home (lettuce, ginger, radish, sweet potatoes, parsley, bok choy). Rod suggested we talk to Dave Forrest from Wollongbar TAFE about Organic Farming courses locally.

Lessons: Radishes do not go with strawberries. Strawberries might look like they are dying (outer most and oldest leaves) but check as they often have new sprouts coming through 🙂

Rachel shows us her weeding technique

Week 4

June 29: Rainy day today, so the three girls cleaned out the nursery while the boys did some stuff up top. As we cleaned up, we chatted about ideas again, there seems to be no shortage of them, so Rachel suggested a brainstorm board to keep track of everyone’s suggestions for the farm. By lunch time the brainstorm board was up and Tania had written her first idea on it. Rachel added one too! The nursery looks amazing – grow little seedlings, grow!

Michelle is in Pea sprout heaven

Then Tania showed us how to harvest pea-sprouts. So cute and yummy. After talking with Rod about possible ways to learn more, Rachel met Dave Forrest by chance (synchronicity) out at The Lismore Markets, and we are looking into doing a Certificate 4 in Organic Farming at TAFE. Rachel goes to Wollongbar campus tomorrow to find out about it. This might mean Clinical Psychology gets the boot.

Time for a spring clean

Lessons: Cleaning the clear plastic wall in nursery during winter is beneficial as it lets in more light and helps little seedling babies to grow!

We also learned that when planting seedlings you need to ask yourself when is the latest in the season that we can harvest the produce? You don’t want to plant seedlings if they aren’t going to get their growing in before this date.

Well, there’s much more we could share, but hope you’ve enjoyed us filling you in on our first few weeks. Stay tuned, more adventures coming soon…

Week one: getting our hands dirty!

Our first full day on the farm started less than 4 weeks ago on June 8. We prepared everything the night before and set off bright and early. The drive would take us close to 90 minutes and we had to drop Harry off to Dog Safari in Burringbar, and conveniently, on the way. We wanted to arrive at the farm just before 10 am in order to coincide with Rod and Tania’s morning tea break. We found them in the shed when we arrived, sitting around a circular table, talking, laughing, and drinking tea and coffee.

Michelle says:

I liked these guys right away. They were relaxed, friendly and really welcoming. We sat down and joined them, and the introductions began. Rod a farmer in his 40’s, lean and playful, and very passionate about Organic Food. Tania, Rod’s wife and co-farmer, strong, energetic and warm, she’d probably be in her mid to late 30’s. Aiden, (I don’t know his job title) but an employee who seemed very experienced, friendly and had a reputation for doing everything fast and efficiently! And last but certainly not least, Molly the dog! A young, playful, rather large puppy who was part of the family…

Rachel says:

I felt at ease immediately. Rod, Tania and Aiden were all so welcoming and I knew right away we had made the right choice to come out and volunteer with these guys.

After introductions and a general chat about all sorts of things including organic food production, we prepared to get farming! It was a sunny day, so no need for gum boots. But, being winter it was somewhat chilly, so beanies, scarves, vests and jumpers were required. The growing area itself is up on a bit of a plateau on Rod and Tania’s property, and from the shed we had to take a drive down a steep gully and up the other side (even steeper). Our transport for this ride was to be a beaten up ute, which only fit 2 people in the front, so Rachel and I had to jump on the back of the ute! The ute tray is covered in a high canopy, made of steel mesh, which gave us something to hold onto as we stood on the back tray door. Rod joined us on the back, declaring with a cheeky grin and boyish excitement, “this is the best bit and the real reason I farm” And we were away….

Michelle says:

The ride on the ute was heaps of fun, like a theme park ride with better views, and much more irreverent (not to mention free)…I was taken back to my childhood, when it seemed we were always doing things like this, slightly dangerous, fun and exciting. I guess you would call them ‘real adventures’…

Molly ran in front of the ute the whole way up. She’d take off and get way ahead of us and then stop and look back, wondering why we were taking so long. As we reached the top of the drive and made it onto the plateau we saw our first glimpse of the growing beds and the view!

Rachel says:

It was a real surprise that the farm was raised up so high, well above the house and sheds. The views were incredible to take in. I noticed that I felt really embraced by the mountain ranges in the background, and also very close to the incredible energy of Mt Warning, which we could see as we farmed. For me this felt like further confirmation that we were in the right spot.

Wollumbin

spectacular views from farm

Michelle says: 

Spectacular is a word that comes to mind! Seeing all these vegies growing with the pristine environment of the Border Ranges National Park as a backdrop and The stunning Mt Warning National Park in the foreground. It was one of those ‘pinch myself I am surely dreaming’ moments. In fact we were so stunned, that we must have looked complacent, because Tania had to check that this was our first time at the farm. We both replied that we were just so elated we couldn’t speak!

Arriving at the top, we were put straight to work. Our job this morning was to spread out the beetroot seedlings, which were about 5-10cm tall, and give them more space to grow fully. Tania showed us the technique (she made it look so easy) and then we all got to it (we were much slower but Tania wasn’t concerned). The key thing was to move the smaller ones as Tania explained: they would have a smaller taproot, so less disturbance to these plants. We talked as we worked, and Tania shared how they try to continue to be creative with the farm; to try out new crops and make use of adverse weather conditions, to adjust to changing markets. They also loved to grow a wide diversity of crops, rather than stick to one or two things. hence we could see around us: spinach, shallots, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, radish, ginger, herbs, lettuces, asian greens and more…

Our next job was weeding between the young spinach plants. This was a faster task and a bit easier for us newbies! We learnt that day how important regular weeding is for an organic farm, relying on no pesticides, and how quickly weeds can take over and block sunlight or root space for young and even more mature plants. Tania told us a lot about how she came to be a farmer that day and explained that farming isn’t difficult work its just consistent. You need to stay on top of it and sometimes, especially in summer, this can be challenging.

There was more that happened that day; more talking, more learning, more laughter and let’s not forget the ute ride back down the hill. We made Aiden promise he would drive faster next time!!