Monday, October 6, 2014

No work and all play makes me very happy today!

A friend came by and brought me some of her wonderful asparagus this morning and all day, on and off, I have been thinking about how I would have it tonight….. raw in a salad, steamed as a vegetable, baked in a tart…. or what!

So, about 5pm I wandered out into the garden with my basket to see what was there that would make up my mind for me about cooking the asparagus. (I had already eaten quite a bit raw during the day.)

First there were the chooks to say hello to and some eggs to collect. Next I noticed that one of the chicories was stretching upwards before going to seed, so I decided to cut most of it off, as I really love chicory. The rest of it will shoot again and go to seed which will self sow and give me next more chicory next winter and spring, without me having to do a thing.

Near that chicory is a self sown red cabbage that is simultaneously growing a wonderful cabbage and sending up shoots with flowers, in a circle around the head. I picked one of the flower shoots and it was so sweet that I picked most of the rest of them, leaving the head for another day. I left a few shoots to continue flowering and set seeds which will self sow and provide me with red cabbages next winter and spring, without me having to do anything.

Earlier today I did some mowing and noticed how wonderful the dill is looking. These dill plants were dug up from a self sown clump that was very congested and moved to a more open area where they have done really well. So, I cut some fronds. I am surprised they have not gone to seed yet but soon they will and I will leave a few to self sow so I will have dill next winter and spring without any work at all from me.

There is one enormous frilly mustard reaching to the heavens. This gorgeous, lime green, frilly, beautiful plant is self sown. I am not sure why I didn’t get many this year but I will let this one go and hopefully it will give me more next year, without me having to sow any at all. I picked some of the pretty leaves as I passed by.

I looked over into the paddock next to my vegetable garden, where dairy cows sometimes graze. There, pecking away at this and that, were 3 of my chooks. I opened up the bottom of the chook yard fence a few years ago, just enough for a chook to get under, so my lucky chooks have free range over maybe 20 acres or more but they don’t don’t go that far away. I threw them some snails I found slithering through the perennial leeks and watched them fight over them.

While I was there, I cut some of the leeks which are so dense now that I just cut them at the ground and use them like spring onions, green tops and all. I love this patch which multiplies by growing little nodules around each leek which then grow into more leeks. If I thinned them out it would take me hours so I don’t bother. I love them thin and sweet. Eventually they will go to seed and grow fabulously beautiful heads of flowers that the bees will flock to and next winter and spring I will start picking the fresh leeks again, without having to do anything in the meantime.

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By this time my basket was full and dinner was pretty much worked out, without me having to decide a thing. So, I slowly stewed the chopped leeks and most of the rest, in olive oil with the lid on then added the asparagus, s and p, and several beaten eggs mixed with some milk. When it was nearly set I grated over some good, sharpish, English cheddar (one of my ridiculous indulgences!) and put it under the grill to brown a little.

As I sat and ate my dinner I thought of the lovely 20 minutes or so I had spent in the garden, the fun it was tossing snails over the fence and watching the chooks race to get them and how nice it was that Erika had bothered to drop in on her way to work early this morning to give me some of her asparagus. And how I don’t even have to sow any seeds or do any work at all for this dinner to grow itself in my garden and my friend’s garden next year.

Life is good. Let things go a bit and watch them come back.

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Look at the colour of that!
Red cabbage shoots about to flower.
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                       I love dill.
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Fat Bastard asparagus from Erika. Beautiful.
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The final result of 20 minutes in the garden and 10 minutes in the kitchen. All of which made me smile! And there’s leftovers!
image   Punnets of cucumber  seedlings from yesterday’s Cygnet market. Soon to be a summer lunch ingredient.
And so the seasons go round and round….
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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Greater desires = more work

Masanobu Fukuoka’s book The One Straw Revolution, written back in the 1970’s, is even more relevant today than it was then. A scientist himself, while researching various areas of agriculture, came to the conclusion that chemical agriculture was leading the consumer and the land on the path to illness, and that there had to be a better way. So began his journey into natural farming, using observation and patience to guide him. Eventually he developed simple ways to grow rice and a cereal crop in rotation, without chemicals or hard work. The book is a delightful and insightful look at life and agriculture through the eyes of a Japanese scientist turned farmer.

Masanobu Fukuoka 1913 - 2008

In one chapter he is discussing the supermarket’s desire to offer the same vegetables all year round and all the same size, with fresh (unnatural) colours and how this puts incredible pressures on the farmers to move towards out-of-season production, with huge losses if the products are different in size as well as the problems of expensive cold storage and chemical coatings to every piece of fruit and vegetable to ensure artificial long keeping.

Then he puts this back onto the consumer by saying….

…..To say that what one eats is merely a matter of preference is deceiving because an unnatural diet creates a hardship for the farmer and the fisherman as well. It seems to me that the greater one’s desires, the more one has to work to satisfy them….

That is the nub of so many of society’s present day ills; desire for more than is natural to have or be or do.

When I read books and articles I always refer back to my life and the lives of the world I see about me as a kind of reference point for making an opinion about what I am reading. My life here is funded by the tiniest income, so tiny I don’t even pay tax. I can do this for several reasons and one is because I was fortunate enough to have the money to set myself up when I came here with a house, a car and modest household goods. It is only from that point on that I needed to make enough money to live on.

Many people who have chosen to live here in southern Tasmania have arrived with the same ability to set themselves up as me. But then they return to a hectic life of working far from home and lots of driving and shopping and expenses that I don’t have. I assume, thanks to that paragraph in the book, this is because their desires are greater than mine.

It is natural to eat by the seasons and I have no problem at all with preparing delicious meals almost entirely from organic, seasonal food.  I cannot think of much that I eat that is not seasonal except spices and grains (which of course ARE seasonal but because they are dried seeds, are usually available all year round). My food bill is very low indeed, especially compared to the trolleys full of packaged food that I see people wheeling to their cars. I have no desire to even know what all that stuff is.

I don’t feel that my life is lacking; in fact I feel it is very rich and wonderful. I love what I do in my Garden Shed and Pantry home and market shop. I love Cygnet and have no desire to shop elsewhere. It is with great regret that I shop online for certain books and technology and I could not live anywhere without the internet! I love the community garden and all rowing and all the simple pleasures of outdoor, rural Tasmania. 

I have learned to say no to taking on more roles and doing more things because after a certain point, more is not better; more is less do-able. Everyone has a natural state that may not be the same as your friends’ or neighbours’. Trying to do or be more than is right for you is self-destructive. I sometimes feel overwhelmed by what I must achieve this week or tomorrow, even though I know people who can do twice as much as me without any (visible) problem.

It seems to me that the greater one’s desires, the more one has to work to satisfy them… Thank you Masanobu for your words of wisdom relevant to the field and the soul.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

A self sown beauty that always makes me smile

One of my most favourite sights is self sown chicory. The range of colours, the enormous variations that spring up from seeds from one plant, the boldness of a vegetable that grows and grows even when it is mown and the wonderful way the leaves erupt from the centre always make me smile. That they grow strong and sure right through winter and are happy when crusted in ice and frost, their shiny leaves radiant in any light are added features. Also, in winter they are sweet and delicious.

I just went out to pick a basket of greens to make spinach and fetta pie but had to come and get my camera to capture, for the hundredth time, the glories of the self sown chicory display in my garden.

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The perpetually mown chicory! I only mowed this yesterday and already it has started growing back.
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First harvest. It will regrow.
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How did so many different chicories end up self sown in one place?
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A more upright chicory
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All from the seeds of one plant that hung over the wall. Note how varied they are!
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The makings of a spinach and fetta pie.

And here is the one shot I got of this gorgeous raptor which was sitting right outside my window when I opened the curtains this morning before it flew away…. sadly it had a tree in blossom behind it which makes it difficult to see and I didn’t have time to get a better lens.

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Monday, September 1, 2014

Deranged chooks

My life seems to follow a pattern that I would like to change!

This is how it goes…. I have an idea, get it going, make a success of it and someone comes along and tries (successfully usually) to take it over and kick me out.

These people have the gift of the gab and the time to weave their evil in other people’s ears, seeming to want to turn my success into theirs.

I will not fight with them. I can see exactly what they are doing but am powerless to stop them.

Since I have come here it has happened twice; first with my Wednesday gardening group and now with the Cygnet library garden. Both these small enterprises were meant to be for my relaxation and hence were meant to be small. They were small gestures to demonstrate to the community that anyone could have a beautiful, edible space to garden in, in a relaxed way.

In both cases people with grander ideas spent many months expanding their vision until they make a bid to take over, with endless criticisms of my small, peaceful, relaxing approach. Holding on to the small and easy to manage has been like trying to hold back a tsunami, so, in both cases, I withdrew, leaving them to their inevitable collapses.

It has always been the same, all my life. I would very much like to change it so that I can quietly and peacefully potter about doing something for the good of the community without some puffed up, deranged chook trying to make themselves top of a pecking order where once there was none!

Life is good. Small is good.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

More than just a garden…

This story is evolving as I write.

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One day 2 years or so ago a woman came to the Cygnet Community Garden for the first time. She was from Queensland, she said, and was here doing some house sitting. The regulars at the garden showed her around and she knuckled down amongst us for a couple of hours gardening. She was nice to be with and was most impressed with our lunch spread when we stopped work at 12 noon. I hoped she would come again. She did and she continued to, whenever her house sitting brought her close enough to Cygnet.

Then, one day she said she was going back to Queensland to see her family and may or may not come back to Cygnet, depending on if she could find more house sitting. We missed her a lot and every week we asked each other if anyone had heard from her. It wasn’t long before someone had a phone call and someone else had an email, all suggesting that she was returning soon, and that her daughter and grand children would be coming for a visit too, in a new house sitting arrangement she had found in Randall’s Bay, not far from Cygnet.

She had found a little house by the sea and decided she wanted to stay….. forever. It soothes your soul by the sea and she had become quite fond of us at the community garden and some others in a craft group she had joined.

To cut a long story short, she has sold up in Queensland and bought a house in Cygnet, not Randall’s Bay, after all. She is arriving this week and we have some house warming surprises for her; I dare not say what they are as she may read this blog piece! But I suspect the best present will be seeing the faces of friends she has already made and knowing that they will help her settle in and adapt to her new life.

Community gardens are deep. Rivers run through them and energy flows in many directions. Our community garden is a haphazard, grass-infested, quite unkempt looking garden that those who look with their hearts, minds and souls (rather than just their eyes) see as a wonderful, strong, peaceful web where the food produced is only a part of the story.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Imagine a Tasmania….

Imagine living in a place where 100% of the power generated was from renewable energy and owned by the state plus having spare to sell and send across an existing undersea cable to the mainland; where medicinal crops (including poppies and hemp) were billion dollar industries and outstripped the old income from forestry a thousand times over; where wind farm construction was on the cusp of employing the entire workforce (and more) from collapsed mining; where bio mass energy heated schools and pools and buildings all over the state; where dairy farms and vegetable farms were feeding the people near and far…..

Hydro Tasmania

Imagine eco-tourism, organic farms, in fact every industry, business and household being able to claim that 100% of their electricity came from sustainable sources…. imagine the tourist potential….. imagine the income from selling such technology and insight all over the world….. imagine the future….

Imagine governments being so ignorant that the mere mention of hemp had them closing doors to businesses ready to start planting; imagine governments taking away renewable energy targets and making the construction of all future wind farms, ready to start building in the next few weeks, impossible to finance…. imagine them not standing tall and claiming credit for tossing aside the woes of a crumbling Tasmania and grasping these chances that have fallen like mana from the heavens….

Imagine how sick we feel and how angry we are to see unsustainable fish farming practices and other ridiculous developments taking precedent. Imagine if they privatise Hydro Tasmania and, like the gas fields of South Australia, investors suck the state dry.

It is hard to write these words. It is incomprehensible that such opportunities are not being grasped. Tasmania has a chance to leapfrog much of the rest of the world but those in the hot seats of power seem incapable of understanding. Imagine how they will be remembered in history. Imagine how it could be…..

Friday, July 25, 2014

The most uncivilised time in human history is now….

 

This man from Thailand has found an easy way to live, after spending 7 years living the hard way. It is so simple, so much how I feel, I want to hug him!

I don’t seem to live in the same world as most people I see. All those cars zooming through Cygnet, going this way and that, while I walk to the shops to get what I need, children being rushed off here and there in the school holidays, people going shopping in bigger towns for clothes that follow a fashion, people going to get some chemical food from a big supermarket, buying stuff, doing stuff, working harder so they can have more stuff and go more places…..and not have time to be happy.

No need for me to say more as he says it all, even about saving seeds!!! I feel like I know this man.