Thursday, July 17, 2008

Garden of Eatin'

We've been living in our place for three years now. It was an establishing organic farm when we moved here and it was about eight years old.

So, it's pretty established and we are retrofitting what is here. The citrus are in need of replacing - they don't last long here in the subtropics, so we are slowly doing that.

There were some permaculture ideas here when we arrived, but they too are in need of another wave of updates. For example, we need to replant the food forest, cull some trees that are threatening to fall over (wattles etc), and we need to plant out support plants such as pigeon pea.

We also seriously need to redesign the place to be much more permaculture. We need it to be zoned and we need to get into some relative location strategies.

We are also slowly seeing what it could be under our watch (as the current stewards of the land).

Defining what it is we want the garden to be has taken time. It's taken observation and noticing what is happening in the garden. How has it matured? What affects what out there? For example, tall trees and overplanting has lead to problems with fungal diseases in the citrus - time to cull plants to let air and sun in.

But what type of place do we have here? I've always found it hard to define.

Then I watched the DVD Think Global, Act Local. It's produced by Morag Gamble and Evan Raymond who live here on the Sunshine Coast. It features a lot of the options we have for sustaining our food supply in the future. School and community gardens, co-ops, food box systems, community supported agriculture, all those options we have available, but are underutilised and still treated like 'novelties' rather than real solutions.

Anyway, during the DVD they talk about a mixed traditional farm. This term really struck a chord with me. It showed a farm in the hinterland which supplies fruit and veg boxes to the community and through a local farmers' market. They also keep bees, bake bread, grow flowers and preserve their excess harvest.

How wonderful - this is what I want. This is what I want this place to be - The Garden of Eatin' - a mixed traditional farm with permaculture principles.

We already grow; vegies (a wide variety of European types during winter and subtropical/tropical perennial vegies throughout the year), fruit - needs some attention to increase yield and some trees are at a point of needing to be replaced, but great structure there.

We also grow herbs, coffee, flowers (edible ones at the moment and we do have some ornamental heliconias with spectacular flowers like the parrots beak).

Now, I have the idea of adding more animals to the system (hence increasing the 'mix' on our farm). We already have extensive worm farms (very viable useful animal stock to keep), we also have chooks for their eggs, manure, feathers and recycling qualities.

So, what's next? I think one of the most important animals to have in your system is the bee. So, I'm going to learning bee keeping. As pollinators, bees are second to none - there is no way we as humans could do what they do. Lose the bees and chances are you lose your food supply. They give us honey - honey is wonderful. It's medicinal, a great food supply and if you eat local honey, it can help reduce the effects of local pollen allergies - which is something I need.

I know a bee keeping who offered a while ago to mentor anyone interested in keeping bee, so I'll contact him and see how we can go about getting a hive here on our land.

The other animals I'd like to have at our place are goats. A lot more responsibility and they will be the largest animals we have here. But they are still smaller than cows, and goat's milk is excellent for cheesemaking.

So these are my plans. First the bees, then the goats...

Onward and upward for the Garden of Eatin'!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

A local co-operative

I'm very excited about tonight. We are hosting the very first meeting of our town's first co-operative.

I have no idea how you go about starting a co-op, but I'm looking forward to learning.

It's exciting because it really demonstrates community working together, being cohesive, which is exactly what we need for a better future.

Living simply is one thing, but we do need community support and connection. As Bill Mollison says; it's not about self-sufficiency, it's about self-reliance.

Self-sufficiency to me means cutting yourself off from others, being an island. Trying and working so hard to fend for yourself you lose touch with the rest of the world.

Self-reliance on the other hand is about taking responsibility, but also sharing that responsibility. Not everyone needs to be an island, there are many things we can share.

I love the idea of a co-op because to me it is a symbol of community taking responsibility for it's own future. Of being brave enough to commit to an idea, and put time, energy and some $$ behind it.

I look forward to being part of the co-op from the very beginning, of learning valuable skills in developing collective ideas, group facilitation and no doubt some conflict resolutions skills too!

I'm also looking forward to doing my shift at the co-op and being part of this really exciting idea.