Sunday, March 1, 2015

March Working Bee

Ironically our new Working Bee starting time today of 11am saw all the people who voted for keeping the time as 1pm turn up, and only one of the ones who voted for 11am turn up!
We may need to take another vote?
We had a lovely sunny day after all the rain last night and set about workshopping the new extension- inspecting the lovely new raised bed boxes collected by Alistair, Christine and Liz, and dismantling part of the old fence near the tank to allow access from the old part into the new part.
Chris and Liz were the first over the threshold!

 And in true NCG style we also had a lovely food treat bought along by Dianne- homemade blackberry jam made from our own blackberries, and cream on pikelets. Delicious, thanks Dianne.
Posted by Rebecca.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Lessons From Melliodora

Lessons from Melliodora
For quite a while I have thought I would like to make a living from farming.  After constantly hearing my dreams of farming, my wife Christine who has a real understanding of the hard realities of farming  suggested I go to a farm to get real experience (reality) before I jump in to something I know very little about. And she suggested I apply to do an internship with the co-founder of Permaculture, David Holmgren. So I applied at Melliodora, in Hepburn Springs.
When I got accepted to do a three week internship I read a book called Fields of Farmers by Joel Salatin, which is about mentoring and interning. I attempted to heed his advice for the intern: from first accepting everything and forgetting judgment up front to not being a prima donna about the jobs that need to be done. “Chances are there is more to any procedure than you know. Devote yourself to accepting the protocols and techniques of the master you’re with. Every task is a valuable component of the entire process. Jump in, it’s all about immersion” (Salatin).
 Salatin states that he has learned something from every farm he has visited. Sometimes it‘s simply a slick new gate latch. He goes on to explain that interns must not be casual observers. “When you’re out working with a mentor get up where you can see. What really is the technique? How does he hold the hoe? Foot placement? Body placement? Eyes in relation to hands? Every single thing, every single thing has a host of nuances”.
I have just completed the internship. Melliodora is a 1 hectare garden farm and sustainable home which is a model of small scale intensive permaculture. David Holmgren and Su Dennett designed and built the sustainable home and farm (with many helping hands) and they maintain mixed food gardens, orchards, dams and livestock (chooks, geese and goats), as well as do ecosynthesis (use of introduced species to fill niches in a disrupted environment, with the aim of increasing the speed of ecological restoration) creek revegetation.

Melliodora, January 2015
David and Su openly shared their knowledge and experiences with me and the other interns. To be able to spend three weeks working at one of the best examples of permaculture under the guidance of such experienced mentors was a real privilege. I learned by observing David and Su and by doing the daily garden farm chores. Perhaps I learned most through osmosis, just being there.
Sue with an Austrolorp Chook

I had many stimulating chats with David and Su. There was much time for dialogue and explanations about why things are done in such ways at the garden farm.  On one occasion in the garden I asked David about his method of gardening and he explained the importance of intuition and listening to his emotions. For example on this summer day it was cooler and it had been raining earlier which provided extra moisture in the soil. David described how this ‘autumn-like’ weather made him feel like planting, and so that is what he did today: sowed carrots, daikons and butter lettuce.
 David and Karl sowing carrots, daikons and salads

Melliodora has been designed to mimic the patterns and relationships in nature. After 30 years it continues to work productively and sustainably due its systems management. Many applications such as chooks and orchards have been adopted (rather than single use farming) which require interconnected knowledge. Human physical labour rather than complex machines are used to organise and maintain the permaculture garden farm. 

Human labour with simple machines is mostly used

The amount of embedded knowledge that David and Su have can be overwhelming at times.  To try to cram into three weeks a lifetime’s knowledge and experience couldn’t be done on my notepad which I kept with me at all times. However through the stories I was told and the context of doing , the internship became a means of developing habits –not just procedural how-to’s but the way I think and behave. The effectiveness of the internship was that it put me, the student, next to  masters who have earned their status through time and trial.  
My confidence gained as David explained some of the mistakes and changes in thinking they had made in their thirty years at Melliodora.  And what he has learned from his mistakes and observations. For example David described to me, while we were picking hazelnuts, how he had originally placed too much lime in the soil for hazelnut trees. Also he described how his original thinking at Melliodora had a large focus on fruit trees but now his focus has increased on nut producing trees.
Some highlights of the three weeks included walking around the property in the rain with David observing and maintaining water flows. This was very exciting and educational for me as we walked around in our raincoats seeing water fall from the sky and flow along the contours of the land. David has designed the landscape of Melliodora to catch and store water from a large catchment of 40 hectares. On this day I observed the two dams (0.8 Megalitre and 0.3 Megalitre capacity) fill up with water to capacity – much needed to maintain a healthy intensive vegetable garden and orchard at this time of year.

                     David in the rain observing a leaky weir in situ

Another highlight was working in the garden with David and two other interns from France , Karl and Aline.  Being in the garden for several hours each day allows one to observe and become attuned to changes and progressions in plants and animals. 

     David sowing potatoes in comfrey

           Simple design: the most used garden tools located immediately next to garden bed

The meals together were great. The food was brilliant, healthy and delicious. There is something about eating, preparing and cooking your own food immediately from your garden and animals that cannot be matched.
Working with David and Su, their immediate family and other interns, and interacting with the local community allowed me access to a potential vocation without the full responsibilities of running a business. At Melliodora, I got to test the waters of permaculture garden farming and see if it is something I want to seriously pursue.

Alistair Tuffnell

Sunday, February 8, 2015

New Extension fence now up!

Now the planning and plotting (no pun intended, but that too) begins! Very exciting.
Posted by Rebecca.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Christmas Lunch 2014 and our first HONEY!

We had a lovely day today for our Christmas lunch, and in a momentous occasion for all of us, especially all who were involved in building the hive and tending the bees over the past year and a half. (Remember this Marijka, Vince, Pia, Ros, Chris and Alistair?
the first harvest of our own honey was collected by Valeria this morning!
Needless to say we all agreed it was delicious...thank- you bees!
In other momentous news Telstra will begin building a fence for our new extension within weeks!
Tania Lucas from Telstra attended our lunch, as was met with a round of applause, and it was lovely to show her our community and gardens, and how well we all cook!
After Christmas and New Year our first Working Bee for 2015 will be on the 4th January so it would be lovely to see whoever is not on holidays there.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Posted by Rebecca D.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

October Working Bee and Poppodums

Well, we had a rather small turn out for the Working Bee on Sunday as you can see, but a very cheery one! Unfortunately the Indian feast turned out to be an Indian snack (thank goodness for Georgina's poppadums!) but we did manage to get some weeding and mulching done around the orchard, and Chris and Biggles worked diligently on the outside of the fence and mulching the new plantings.
It was lovely to have Heather back too, after several months adventuring overseas.
Georgina and I were able to do our official handover, so your new Treasurer is now fully in charge of our finances. (Phew, I hear you say.)

While we were gorging ourselves on all those poppadoms, Ian took the opportunity to give us a Garden Safety workshop as the beginning of a series of workshops we'll be having over the next 12 months in association with our garden extension plans and grant. There are some safety leaflets pinned to the notice board in the shed for all those who missed it, and here is a link to garden safety on the Vic Govt Better Heath site as well.

It was a beautiful sunny day and everything is bursting with life, so a great time to be in the gardens!
Posted by Rebecca.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

September Working Bee and Good-bye Luke!

It was another lovely Spring day for our September Working Bee but sadly it was also Luke's last. We will miss him and his lovely calm energy in our gardens but we wish him happy gardening in Canberra.
Now that we have some money for our extension thanks to the grant that Ian managed to get, we spent time clearing part of the space and working out what to do about fencing, as well as clearing the other side of the fence near the tracks to facilitate council mowing.
We recently had our AGM as well, with Georgina becoming our new Treasurer and Liz our new Membership Coordinator, so with new members coming and old members going changes are afoot.
One of our new members, Rushida, is inspiring everyone to new heights of gourmet delights with an Indian Feast planned for our next working bee in October ...stay tuned for some luscious photos and no doubt some additions to our recipe page as well!

Posted by Rebecca.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Beautiful video on our local food growers

I spotted this today while browsing the Moreland Food Gardens network site.
It's worth watching if you have 10 minutes. Beautifully shot and put together and so inspiring!
Just down the road from us all!

Posted by Rebecca.