"Eat well grown food from healthy soil."
Food Rule # 30, Michael Pollan
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16 December 2014

Crash bang! There goes the hailstorm, stalking off to the eastern shore to terrorise dogs and knock some more flowers and berries off their bushes. Wow - that was an intense little tantrum. If you're not a Hobart dweller you may not know that we've just experienced a series of dramatic, heavy, and short lived hailstorms. Bit unusual for our mild and polite climes.

Since the last newsletter, when I was so pleased that we were getting some rain, we had about 12 days of drizzle in a row without seeing the sun. Very good weather for mildews and moulds to develop. Most likely any late peas will succumb if they haven't already, and if you've still got garlic in the ground, you might need to get it out unless you'e blessed with a very well drained site.

But we've also had some warm and sunny days, they REALLY make me smile, specially knowing that the soil is well watered.
Another thing making me smile is our new Seasonal Garden Calendar! If you haven't already got one, and would like one (or a bundle) before Christmas, get in touch VERY soon. I'm heading interstate next weekend and wont be able to mail out or drop off calendars between 20th Dec and 5th Jan. You can order the calendars from our website home page. They cost $15 plus $3 postage and handling.
They'll still be available after Christmas of course, and being a perpetual calendar, are fine to keep going from year to year. You can just pencil in the days of the week each year. I have one that got wet (it was rainy on delivery day!) and is now a bit wrinkly. So I plan to use that one for my garden diary keeping, since it will get a bit dirty doing that job. I'll record what I planted on what date, and when I harvested etc. Also I'll note frosts, and hail storms! Over time this could become a handy reference for my own particular garden. When I planted garlic, peas, tomatoes or cabbages, each year. And how it went each time. When the fruit trees first blossomed. When I picked my first sun warmed nectarine. Mmmmmm could be a diary of delights!

Fimbarista File: Jess and Tom

Jess and Tom and their children Jem and Anna are completely gorgeous Fimbaristas who live in South Hobart and have been creating a bountiful, whimsical, enchanting (and probably enchanted) garden over the last few years. Getting to meet and befriend people like this is THE greatest reward of creating FIMBY.
Here's Tom next to the 2.5m braid of their home grown garlic! Impressive eh? Jess reckons that as Anna grows up and needs her hair braided that will be daddy's job!

I first met these wonderful people back in February 2012 when they had just moved to South Hobart from Alice Springs, and were discovering that snails enjoyed our climate. We embarked on the Garden Craft program together, and they quickly expanded the vegie patch in their rental place, and planted fruit, berries, artichokes and rhubarb patches. We were helped in our gardening endeavours by the very friendly and confident rabbit "Fluffy" who was one of our rabbits that we thought would make a great pet. He was huge and beautiful and free ranged happily, getting in the way when we were trying to plant raspberries, and digging up the mulch I bought from our rabbit runs. He befriended the chickens, and moved with them to a different animal friendly place when Jess and Tom bought a house a bit further up the road. 
At Jess and Tom's new place they got to work immediately creating a new garden. 
They're bordering the bush directly now, so fencing out possums and wallabies is essential. They've built a chook run, fruit tree food forest, berry enclosure, vegie patch (that gets bigger every time I visit), more fruit trees, haybale gardens and native habitat and ornamental areas. They've got the tallest tarragon, and the cutest scarecrow I've ever seen!

Its such a pleasure visiting this family in their ever-developing oasis of creativity. We used to have our garden craft monthly sessions on Saturday mornings, and we usually started with pancakes and berries, and good coffee.
Now I don't see them quite as often, and whenever I do drop in its amazing to see the latest transformations. Jess spends as much time as she can in the garden, and is an excellent researcher. We often have long email back and forth conversations about challenges in the garden. She also does alot of reading and trying things and going to workshops and talking with other growers. 

Tom builds things, beautifully up-cycling old materials into useful structures. Below you can see a miniature hot house he made out of old windows. Jem gets in on the action too: he's a gun pruner, helps Dad with the building, and has recently planted his own potato patch which is going ballistic!
I bet you'd love to see their garden. Well, they have generously agreed to host a FIMBY garden tour at their place some time after Christmas. Wooo Hooo! Its very inspiring to wander around their place and see what can be created from scratch. Stay tuned for dates and details in the new year.

Book Review

Food Rules, by Michael Pollan.
This guy is an entertaining and enlightening writer. This little gem of a book distills down the wisdom of some of his other fantastic food writing, eg The Omnivores Dilemma and In Defence of Food (which I highly recommend you read!). He lists 64 simple rules for eating healthily and happily. Things like: #51 Spend as much time enjoying the meal as it took to prepare it. Or #2 Don't eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn't recognise as food. This book would make a great Christmas stocking filler.

Raised bed soil mix: a recipe

If you're installing raised beds, be they home made or bought, you may be looking for a good quality soil mix to help get things going quickly and easily. Even if you're not raising the beds very high, importing a good soil mix can save you and your back hours of hard labour.

We often create new garden beds by just sheet mulching out existing lawn or weed patches with wet newspaper or cardboard, putting a border around the area (can be as low as 20cm or one sleeper high) and covering this with a layer of imported 'raised bed mix'. Over time the grass or weeds are killed and break down, the worms eat through the cardboard or newspaper, and mix the layers for you. Its possible to do a similar thing with a 'no dig' approach using layers of straw, manure and compost. We find that a top layer of good soil mix means you'll get great results immediately even with fine seeded vegies like carrots and lettuce.

We recommend that you DON'T ask for 'garden loam' though. Its often very silty, or not much more than coloured sand, and will set like concrete in a raised bed.
So what makes a good soil mix for raised beds? It must be
(1) free draining,
(2) have good water holding capacity, (3) be weed free if possible, and
(4) have some good plant nutrients.

Barry from Males Sand in South Hobart makes a mix that fits the bill. 
It includes loam (for nutrient and texture), sand (for good drainage), fine composted pine bark (for water holding capacity) and organic compost (for nutrients and soil health). This is all mixed by the big bucket on the machine, and can be picked up by the ute load or bagged for transport in a sedan or wagon. Or delivered of course.
Other landscape suppliers make similar blends. We really like the product from Best Mix Landscape Supplies at Mornington - they use a fantastic organic compost, and add some animal manures to the mix too. Other places have shredded cow manure that can be substituted for the compost, or really old decomposing sawdust in place of the fine composted pine bark. Its a good idea to discuss your requirements with the suppliers. You'll find they're often happy to make up a blend for you, especially if you're getting a few cubic metres delivered.

Cherry slug alert

The disgusterous cherry slugs have appeared. This one is on my quince tree, but they're also proliferating on the pears, and cherry trees. 

They don't damage the fruit, and a large tree can tolerate the damage they do. You can see they skeletonise sections of the leaves. On young trees they can do considerable damage, reducing leaf area and stunting or slowing down the plant. And they're just plain horrible too.

They turn up every year, so I have written about them pretty much every year about this time. So, for more information, down the rabbit hole you go again to last year's newsletter which describes control methods!

Beautiful bartering

I love a good barter! I've scored some great ones recently. For example, Michelle who runs the amazing fantastic stupendous Harvest Feast fresh produce stall at Salamanca every Saturday, wanted some calendars. And we agree to barter for them. So I went for a big happy shopping expedition through her stall on Saturday and got potatoes, leeks, beetroot, carrots, rice, cherries, berries, and more . . . all for a big BBQ at the farm on Sunday. Happy me - supporting all those local growers! AND that was only partial match for the value of the calendars, so tomorrow I'm going to visit the warehouse and get a few kilos of unhulled buckwheat seed to plant at the farm. Yippee!
Another beautiful barter that was completed recently was with Marjorie, who grows seeds bio-dynamically down at Mountain River. Marjorie came to a Taketina workshop that I organised recently. Taketina is a rhythm meditation process, and a big passion of mine. Marjorie and I were trying to work out where we had met before, and it turns out that we'd met at a workshop organised by the local Biodynamic folks. In exchange for the workshop attendance, Marjorie gave me this box FULL of her magnificent, vital, glorious seeds. I was SO excited! Couldn't stop smiling! Maybe some of these will end up in your garden soon!
One final barter that I'm pretty happy about is with Uta and David Green, architects and fimbaristas. I've done some gardening with Uta, and in exchange they will come and visit us at the farm, and help us begin thinking about the house we might build there. They are experts in the Tas Fire Code, which is something we will have to get to know well, being embedded in the southern part of Wielangta Forest.

Yes - Barter is Beautiful!

Berry abundance

Its a bountiful berry season these days - the time of stained fingers. Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, currants, gooseberries (pic above) and the brambles like silvanberries (pic below) are all producing a bumper crop this year, right now. If you don't have your own, get to a farmers market or roadside stall, and get some berry goodness into you! They are of course best eaten fresh, maybe with cream or icecream. They can also be frozen if very fresh, and later next year turned into jam or sauces, pies or crumbles. They mix well with each other, and rhubarb or apple.

Most berries are incredibly easy to grow, and cheap to propagate. Blueberries are the only finicky ones. All the rest get rampant quickly, and need netting, and strict training and control to prevent a berry jungle. But sometimes a berry jungle is just what you want! Just look at those lush, mouthwatering things.

Season's greetings

Its the summer solstice next weekend - the longest day. A turning point in the year. We wish you a warm and lovely holiday period, a great harvest, good sunshine, timely rain, and quiet happy moments in your garden! See you in 2015 with some awesome garden visits and workshops in the first few months. Lots of love from us!
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