Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Open Day

We were super lucky with the weather on Sunday and had a lovely sunny afternoon sharing cake and talking to our visitors. Numbers were pretty good considering we were competing with numerous school fetes and the Salami Festival up the road! Thanks also to Nick for providing music for us to eat our cake to!
There were a few of us involved in setting up in the morning but credit must go to Ros and Marijka who did a great job both setting up and cleaning up at the end of the day, and Ros was official photographer too.
Marijka's display of photographs from the very beginnings of the gardens 20 years ago to the present provided a great topic of conversation, as did our plans for the future in the new extension.
There was much discussion about what we'll do at the next Open Day- bigger and better- at a time yet to be decided, but it was a very pleasant and successful first effort, and opening of our new extension.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

OPEN DAY and Spring

It was a perfect Spring day today and our gardens looked incredibly lush and vibrant. The bees were awfully busy too, and were particularly interested in the lavender and borage flowers. While I was there today a little boy came racing along the path beside the gardens and skidded to a halt under the mulberry tree, looking up expectantly. Then he turned to his Mother (following behind) and said with great disappointment , "They're not ripe yet." So clearly we're not the only ones excited by all that potential fruit!
We do need to do a bit of preparation for our OPEN DAY on the 18th October, especially the new extension but it's all looking good. Check out the photos below, including the valiant Trudie's great efforts as the very first planter box in the new extension to actually be planted out!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Graffiti sadness and recovery

We've had some graffiti and vandalism at the gardens lately that has made us all feel a bit sad and angry, so today we had a positive session of cleaning up and repainting. Of course there's a good chance that it'll all be tagged again by tomorrow but here are some images of what we did today in case they come back and destroy it all again tonight. We will keep painting over what they do and see who runs out of paint first. (Any sightings of these guys should be reported to the Northcote Police.)

Hope you like the new lilac table which is in the shed for safe-keeping....also I invented our own pretty daggy tag for NCG on the back of the door- take that!
Also some photos of Ian and Anthony's amazing cauliflowers, broccolis and kohl rabi- growing things is what we all here for after all!

Posted by Rebecca.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Vege boxes!

Another great day on Sunday with more work being done to get our new extension happening.
Our crack team of vege box wranglers (see below) worked hard repairing and lining the bases and positioning the boxes ready for filling with the soil that was delivered by The Green Centre last week.
By the way, that spade did not connect with Alistair's head- not while I was watching anyway!

Posted by Rebecca

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Meeting on Sunday and Seed Saving

We had a great meeting on Sunday with Christine taking lots of notes and performing the role of Chairperson to keep us all moving. There were a lot of issues discussed so check out the Meetings book in the shed to get up to date with what was decided.
After the meeting Marijka held a Seed Saving workshop and brought along an awesome supply of the seed she has collected. We will be starting a Seed saving Group at the gardens to keep this going- it's a wonderful thing to do, and makes so much sense!
I will put up a permanent link to our Membership rules as well for anyone who may be considering joining the gardens.
Getting much colder, but time for lots of kale, broccoli, leafy greens and peas!
Posted by Rebecca.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

The Green Centre comes to the rescue!

We have just found out that the wonderful people at The Green Centre have offered to donate their Vege Mix soil to fill our vege boxes in the new extension! Woo hoo! So it'll be all hands on deck to receive and transport the soil to the boxes sometime in the next few weeks. Then of course we'll be able to welcome some new members to take ownership of the boxes.
We have a permanent link to The Green Centre in our links list to the left, so check out their website to find out more about them.

April/May Working Bees

The last couple of working bees have seen plenty of movement on the new extension with some planting of lavender and olives outside the fence and some new taps put in as well. On Sunday I only managed to get a couple of photos before one of our bees decided to hurry me along by stinging me on the eye- needless to say I left a bit early. But before then I was able to catch some of the weeding and cleaning up action, and Chris holding aloft the most beautiful apple from the Pink Lady Apple tree he planted. All reports tell me it was a great day and more plans are afoot to fill the boxes in the new extension.(By the way my eye is fine, but I was a pretty hideous sight there for a while)
Posted by Rebecca.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Inside the hive

Here's a few not very good shots taken on my phone of the view through the window into our hive. Ben and I adjusted the hive a wee bit yesterday as it had a bit of a lean on it- it's very important that the hive stay level, so we chocked up one corner- it'd be good if we all kept an eye out for that.

They appear very busy and happy, the dark coloured comb is old brood comb and now that the babies have left the comb they will be starting to fill that up with nectar to make honey. When the comb is filled with honey it will appear to be capped with white. It's a bit difficult to see if the lovely new comb is capped but at least part of it is I think, which means more food for them to survive Winter, and means a head start on honey production in Spring (and maybe some for us to share too!).
We may need to open the hive on a warm sunny day to add some insulation and check on them, and we will need to grow plenty of borage, lavender, rosemary etc to help feed them over Winter.

Posted by Rebecca D.

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