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.


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.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

A gorgeous day in the winter garden

I still get just as excited as ever when I spend the afternoon in my garden and see self-sown things coming up, others growing tall and strong and still older plants regrowing unexpectedly for another season. It sounds corny but it soothes my soul and brings an inner peace that I find hard to feel elsewhere.

Every year at this time it is the red cabbage that makes me smile most. It is certainly the colours and texture of the leaves but it is also the fact that several of them are approaching forming their third crop of red cabbages, with odd branches draped here and there like a small tree, and one is even older. I cut most of the side shoots off and just leave those that look most likely to form a heart. The oldest of them now only has one cabbage forming so this may be its last year. I will be sad to see it go as it has been here almost as long as I have!

The late afternoon light in winter is soft and casts long shadows through the garden. When a flash of sun appears from behind a sea of dark clouds it highlights whatever catches the late rays. Sometimes this is a deep red chard leaf or a bright yellow chard stem or the fine leaves of the lime green frilly mustard. Sometimes it is the bees on the brilliant yellow flowers of the bok choy flowers.

The sky seems enormous in winter here; I think because there are many layers of clouds; some white and shooting across the sky, others dark and menacing and sitting down on the mountains while still more sometimes seem to be going in the opposite direction, all at once. Being in the garden, feeling the breeze come up and being aware of the sky as I potter about is one of my greatest joys. I love the feel of mizzle, that unique cross between drizzle and mist that happens in Tasmania, and the way its chill feels on my lips and cheeks.

This chilly, damp air is what I came here for, from the dry air of South Australia. Mizzle brightens your cheeks, settles on your eye lashes, turns your hair frizzy and softens the light but is not quite wet enough to have to put on a jacket, which is perfect for gardening.

Everything old is new again in the red cabbage patch
Marigolds seem to flower all year round
I love miners lettuce and let it self-sow
The darkest of the red chards
This self-sown bed is now clear of weeds, fertilised with mushroom compost and chicken manure pellets then covered in straw to let the worms and microbes enjoy turning the soil for me.
Self-sown lettuce amongst the new coriander
Tools of the trade + a bucket of leek seedlings removed and ready to take to the community garden tomorrow.
Straw bale chook house I made for 2 new chooks I am getting soon
I love this wooden bucket of water for the chooks. It has azola growing in it to keep the water fresh.
Why is she taking photos of us?
Chicory would have to be one of the most beautiful and varied winter vegetables in my garden….
In winter it is brilliant in salads

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Willing Workers and a Little Ingenuity

It was a nice mild afternoon so I thought it would be good to get started on preparing an area for planting out some of my citrus, once the frosts have passed for this year. A beautiful, old willow tree had fallen over about a year ago and turned what was a shady part of the garden into a very sunny part.

The area has been totally neglected ever since so I took to it with my mattock, with the warm sun on my back. All the grass and weeds were being tossed over the fence for the chooks and they were pretty happy about that. It was quite hard work and as I rested on my mattock for a rest, I watched the chooks digging and scratching at the goodies I had tossed at them.

Then I had an idea. How about I get the chooks out here doing the work for me! How silly, I thought, for me to be doing all the work and throwing weeds, grass and lumps of good soil over the fence when, with a little ingenuity, I could put the chooks to work instead.

Off I went to the farthest corner of my acre where, in the dark recesses of an old shed lived a pile of star pickets rolled up with miles of 1.8m  high chicken wire, given to me recently by a friend leaving the state. Perfect! After quite some effort I was not sure this was such a good use of my limited time! However, I was determined to get the job done and the chooks working for me so, after a lot of swearing and heaving I managed to untangle 2 good long lengths and drag them to the desired site.

Trying to erect a fence already partly assembled and then rolled up, on uneven ground, alone is a challenge! While holding a star picket already joined to the fencing wire with one hand and my trusty mallet in the other, the rest of the 7m roll of wire and pickets wants desperately to lie down and threatens to pull it all down into a tangled mess, taking out one of my eyes at the same time.

Patience is not one of my strengths! However, on the chook yard side of the fence the weeds I had tossed over earlier were already disappearing under those well worked chicken legs and beaks and I could imagine the ease with which they would turn my patch of thick, overgrown greenery into eggs and fertilised soil. After getting down to just my t-shirt, unravelling what seemed like 100m of wire mesh, hammering in pickets that seemed very oddly spaced and dealing with an uneven slope it was finally done.

Lastly I cut a hole in the bottom of the chook fence and called the girls through. The first one to take to a new scenario is always the big brown chook and she made those noises a chook makes when she finds treasure. Immediately all the others came running and soon I was sitting outside the fence having coffee, watching the workers.

In a few weeks I will have a new garden area….. as long as the fence holds up and the chooks don’t work the soil so much they end up going under the fence and outside, digging up parts of the garden that should not be dug!